Current Issue
Children hiking in the woods
Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images.

Camp Considerations, No Matter the Year

How to choose the right camp for your kid.

One mistake parents can make when choosing a camp is confusing their child’s needs with their own. If you want your child to be happy at camp, focus on who he or she is rather than on who you were as a camper. Your goal is to create a harmonious relationship between each of your children and the camp experience, not for your child to follow in your well-worn hiking boots.

Send to Camp for the Right Reasons

If going to camp is an option for your child, that’s wonderful. But don’t force camp on a child who is terrified of the idea. At the same time, plant the seed of going to camp in your children’s minds from an early age, so that when they are ready, it will be a fun, life-enhancing adventure. If older siblings or friends have gone to camp and enjoyed the experience, younger siblings may be eager to go. But if your child is not enthusiastic, wait until your child feels brave enough to make the leap.

Feel free to share your camp experiences and what you got out of them with your kids and invite others in the family to do the same. At the same time, communicate that you love and respect the person your child is. Kids who are secure in their own skin thrive at camp, whereas kids who are insecure and anxious may flounder.

If you have worries or concerns about your child, don’t send your child to camp to address those issues. Find someone you can talk to so you can learn to accept your children for who they are and meet their range of needs. It’s backward thinking to send a child to camp to correct things about them—the person who needs to change their attitude in this scenario is the parent, not the child.

Choose with Your Child in Mind

Sending kids to camp may have been your idea, but in order for kids to feel good about the adventure, they need to buy in as well. Which types of camps are best suited to your child’s physical, emotional, and mental needs? Would day camp or overnight camp be the better choice at this developmental stage? If choosing overnight camp, would your child prefer to be close or far from home? Also consider the mission and style of the camp. Would your child prefer to rough it for a week in the mountains or stay in a cozy, family-style camp with modern amenities?

Remember that what was good for you as a child may traumatize a sensitive child or a child with special needs. For example, if you were a rugged and athletic child, these traits may have been widely admired. If your family of origin had a bias against sensitive or artsy kids, you will want to be aware of a possible unconscious tendency in yourself. You may also need to steel your mind against what others think about who your child is. You are not taking a poll. This is not the 1950s or even the 1990s. Try to view the camp landscape through the eyes of each child instead of through the eyes of others from an outdated point of view.

Children know intuitively when they are liked and accepted. They also know when parts of them are disliked or rejected. If you choose the best camp for your child, you can relax knowing the folks in charge will see the value in your child. When you recognize the value in your child, others see it, too.

Individuation Workbooks For Parents

When parents take care of their own emotions, the need to project their desires onto their children diminishes, and healthy boundaries can be restored. Parents can benefit by finding self-expression practices that help them keep up with their needs that are often neglected. These workbooks are a good place to start for any parent who is overidentifying with a son’s or daughter’s choices.

The Artist’s Way Workbook by Julia Cameron
The Creative Journal by Lucia Capacchione
Journal To The Self by Kathleen Adams
Start Where You Are by Meera Lee Patel
The Secret Me by Shane Windham
The Inner Child Workbook by Cathryn L. Taylor

Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina Katz has learned that seeing kids as the individuals they truly are always pays off in the long run.

Family Food

Newsletter Signup

Your weekly guide to Mile High family fun. Colorado Parent has a newsletter for every parent. Sign Up