Should You Make Your Kid Go to Camp?
Making decisions for your children can be a challenge, especially when they’re young. From wondering how often you should be feeding your newborn, to questioning whether you should send him to public or private school, rarely do you make a decision lightly or without doing copious amounts of research.
Undoubtedly, your child’s happiness and well-being is your ultimate goal as you try to navigate the enormous responsibility of being in charge of someone else’s life. But how do you know when choosing between any two things that you’re making the right choice for your child when so many alternative options exist? And how do you find a balance between what they want and what you want for them?
There’s no easy answer to these questions, and deciding whether or not to send your child to summer camp is no exception.
For some parents it’s an easy choice. Maybe they went to camp themselves and want their kids to have the same experience, or maybe they worked at a camp in college and can speak firsthand about the benefits kids can reap from summer camp.
For others it’s not so simple. Some parents might not be able to even wrap their heads around the idea of sending their kids away for weeks at a time. Still other parents might love the idea of summer camp, but their kids could be nervous or scared at the prospect of being away from home.
In the face of so many worries and what-ifs (from parents and kids alike), how do you decide if you should make your child go to camp?
Audrey Monke of Sunshine Parenting answers this question so frequently that she came up with a chart. Below you’ll find her explanations of when and why you should make your kid go to camp.
Anxious Kid/Anxious Parent – No
“Don’t make your child go to camp if you’re both anxious about it. Wait until one or the other of you overcomes the anxiety. I know from experience that if you as the parent are not ‘all in,’ confident, and ready for your child’s camp experience, then he might not be able to work through the adjustment of camp. Read Homesick and Happy and see if you can gain confidence in the camp experience. Only then will it be a good idea to make your child go to camp.”
Confident Kid/Anxious Parent – Yes
“This isn’t a case of making your kid go to camp. This is the situation where you as the parent are saying, ‘She’s been wanting to go to camp the past two summers, and I’m finally giving in.’ If you have put your child in the position of needing to convince you to let her go to camp, please just let her go. Don’t make this something your adult child will complain to you that she missed out on because of your fears. Read up on how to overcome your own problem – kidsickness – and don’t let your anxiety hold your child back from one of life’s great adventures. Sign her up for camp. Let her go!”
Anxious Kid/Confident Parent – Yes
“Anxious children with parents who are confident about the power of a good camp experience have been the most rewarding campers to work with of my camp career. If you know that camp will be a stretch for your anxious or shy or sensitive or _____________( fill-in-the blank) child, then it may be a good idea to make her go. If you are able to be confident as you search for a camp that’s a good fit, and you can confidently present your child with the reasons why you know camp will be good for her, then camp is probably a good decision. One caution I have is not to send an anxious child to camp when she is too young. Wait until she is at least 9 or 10 years old. If you are prepared to confidently articulate to your child why you are sending her to camp, even when she pulls out all the stops to convince you that it’s a terrible idea, then camp is a good idea.”
Confident Kid/Confident Parent – Yes
“You don’t need a paragraph. Lucky you. Be thankful. You’ve got an easier parenting job than most of us. And, of course, your kid will love camp and have a great experience.”