The Sleepaway Decision

Sending your child to overnight camp doesn’t mean you don’t love them

09 Jan 2020 | 10:16

For parents who didn’t go to sleepaway camp themselves, the thought of sending their child away to camp can seem like a bizarre idea. Why would someone who loves their child choose to send them away for the summer? Camp professionals and youth development experts would argue that some of the best learning happens when children are away from their parents. Here are just a few of the ways your child will grow after a summer spent at overnight camp.

Gain independence – “When a child attends camp for the first time, they may be a little nervous about making decisions without their parents there to guide them. But once a child learns to be responsible for themselves such as make their own bed, decide on the foods they would like to try at meals and pick their own elective activities, they gain independence and a belief in their ability to take care of themselves,” says Renee Flax, Director of Camper Placement for the American Camp Association, NY & NJ. “This is often the first time in their lives that they are given this much autonomy and it’s something they come to appreciate and enjoy about camp. This is a gift that will last them throughout adolescence and beyond. Studies have shown that children who attended camp do much better their first year in college than those students who never left home.”

Sense of identity – “Children establish a sense of identity at overnight camp, where they begin to truly advocate for themselves and foster strong levels of trust with their friends and counselors instead of just their parents, ultimately helping them to navigate through the world on their own,” says Brian Krug, Director of Camp Canadensis, a coed overnight camp in PA.

Confidence – Flax explains, “Confidence comes in various ways at camp. When a child tries something new that at first she was nervous about but then overcomes her fear, she builds confidence in her own abilities. Sometimes confidence comes when a child speaks up for herself. Finding your own voice and being able to express yourself is an empowering feeling.”

Community living – “The group living dynamic at sleepaway camp teaches children so much including inclusiveness, teamwork, cooperation and respect. Campers are also asked to be mindful of their own belongings as well as others,” comments Krug.

Trying New Activities – “Trying something new is one of the greatest parts of camp. Often a child is pleasantly surprised when they try a new activity and learn that they love it,” says Flax. “Counselors and fellow campers also encourage their fellow bunkmates and cheer them on which makes it even more rewarding. Challenging yourself to work through things that don’t come easy will also reinforce the feeling of confidence and will make it easier to try new things in the future.”

"“Children establish a sense of identity at overnight camp, where they begin to truly advocate for themselves and foster strong levels of trust with their friends and counselors instead of just their parents." Brian Krug, Director of Camp Canadensis