Attending Sleepaway Camp with a Friend
Going with a Friend to Camp
For some kids, going to sleepaway camp for the first time can be intimidating. And for many parents, sending their first-timer to camp with a friend might seem like a great solution. Right? While it might seem like a good idea, it is not always the best plan for all kids.
Kids Can Express Themselves
According to experts at the American Camp Association (ACA), if a child is heading off for a month or even the entire summer, as counterintuitive as it may seem, children who go alone often get much more out of the experience. When kids go to camp with people they know from home, for better or worse, they are often already labeled: the loud kid, the shy kid, the outgoing kid, the athlete, the artsy kid. For kids who arrive at camp without labels or expectations, camp can be rare a chance to break free and find new ways to express themselves.
Other considerations about attending a sleepaway camp with a friend include issues such as homesickness: if one friend is homesick the other often feels responsible for taking care of her. Sometimes existing friends close themselves off as a duo and don’t branch out to others or make new friends. And then there’s the scenario where one friend forms new camp relationships and the other is left feeling cut out or ignored. To be sure, not all outcomes are negative, but for many new campers, attending a sleepaway camp alone offers unique chances to grow and form new relationships that will otherwise be missed.
All that said, can you go to camp with a friend? Of course! Many kids do. For those kids who won’t go without a friend, camps may place them in different cabins – or at least at different ends of the same cabin, encouraging them to reach beyond their comfort zones to reap the full spectrum of social benefits the camp experience offers. Friends can go to camp together, but “friend separation” can be a good thing for many kids.
Sharing an Experience
Having friends from home at camp doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. In fact, in the right situation, having a friend from home at sleepaway camp can make camp better. Kids who may be just casual friends at school might attend the same camp, and even though they still have their standard school friends back “in the real world,” they bond that much more after camp for having a unique, shared camp experience.
The same logic can be applied to siblings. If parents find a camp they like and trust, why go looking for a second? It’s easy to send them to the same camp. But at the same time, it’s important for parents to look at their kids as individuals and consider the best fit for each of them. In other words, siblings may even benefit from being separated for the summer. After all, what you do for one kid isn’t necessarily the best for the other. Remember the old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder?”
For those first-time campers going alone and a little bit nervous, as most kids are, camps and counselors know how to break the ice, promote interactions and see to it that all campers are engaged with their peers in fun activities and other social settings. Going alone to a new camp can be a great experience for many kids. Some campers even specifically say they want to attend a camp where they know no one beforehand, knowing full well that they will be surrounded by new camp best friends in no time at all.