Make a Friend at Summer Camp
Help Your Child Forge Lasting Friendships at Summer Camp
The first day of summer camp can be a scary experience. The combination of new faces, different scenery and unfamiliar food is intimidating, especially to young campers who know they’ll be sleeping in a strange bed at the end of the day. The best defense against first-day jitters (for kids of all ages) is a pal, a buddy, a comrade, or, at the very least, someone to sit with at dinnertime.
Some kids don’t have any trouble making friends. With enviable confidence, they attract crowds and entertain them with ease. But the majority of youngsters worry that they won’t fit in, that the other kids won’t like them, that they’ll be lonely at camp.
The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to help boost your child’s friend-making powers before he packs for summer camp.
Erin Leonard, who works with North Carolina Outward Bound, suggests that parents remind campers that everyone else will be in the same proverbial boat.
“Making new friends is a common fear,” she says. “Remember that others may be feeling the same way as you. Be open to the experience of meeting new people and getting to know those who may be different from you.”
If campers can’t make friends on their own, Leonard recommends that they ask camp staff to help. “Talk to your instructors if you are still feeling nervous. They may beable to help you get past your barriers and get to know others.”
Leonard says the Outward Bound staff is prepared to offer assistance to campers who need it. “All of our instructors are trained as leaders and group facilitators,” she explains. “Instructors encourage students to build communication skills as they participate in outdoor activities. They also facilitate group discussions that allow each member to share their thoughts and feelings. Instructors also meet one on one with students to discuss their feelings about making friends or participating in group activities.”
Dean Barley, director of The Vineyard Camp and Conference Center in Westfield, North Carolina, says his staff is also trained to help campers make friends. But he says campers will be most successful in forming relationships if they follow his simple advice: “To have a friend, be a friend. Come alone. And be a servant and helper, not a taker and whiner.”
Bunny Brown, director Emeritus of Skyland Camp for Girls in Clyde, North Carolina, also encourages campers to offer friendship in order to receive friendship. “To have a friend, you must first be a friend,” says Brown. She offers examples of friendly overtures: “You can ask a camper to join you in a social endeavor. Or complement them in something. Engage them in friendly conversation. Take their side in an argument. Make them smile or laugh. Share something you have and they don’t. Never make another feel inferior. Don’t laugh at or criticize them. Overlook the weaknesses you may see. Look for the good in each. Practicing these techniques at camp gives you habits for a good lifetime.”
Brown expects her staff to master these techniques, so they can attend to shy campers, to campers who aren’t getting along, and to those who aren’t fitting in well. “Harmony is the goal,” she says.
It’s not easy for children to leave the comfort and security of home, friends and family behind when they go to camp. Armed with a positive attitude, a smile and a good sense of humor, however, they’ll find friends in abundance.