Summer Camp Sampler - Teen Talk

Posted at 8:57 AM, May 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-18 11:48:03-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - This week's "Teen Talk" is focused on advice for parents when it comes to teens and younger children being apprehensive about going to camp this summer.

WTXL contributor and family therapist Jane Marks:

Summer camps offer a perfect opportunity to optimize new personal growth and psychosocial development. Camp is where teens of all ages can increase their range of coping strategies. Most camping experiences will offer opportunities to learn new skills, take manageable risk, but most importantly help with the personal growth and nurture resilience that we have talked about in previous discussions. So when you have a discussion with your teens, these are the points that you want to discuss first.

1. Camps typically are a fresh start for all teens. Every youngster comes in without any baggage from the school experience whether they have a history of being known as shy, or a nerd, or a the class geek. The one thing about most well run camps is there is no bullying tolerated and this is a chance to just be yourself.

2. New relationships should be built with peers and with trusted adults. The most significant people in most teens' lives are their parents and so the camping experience will generally generate new relationships.

3. Summer camp presents an opportunity to build a powerful new identity. You are no longer competing against hundreds. Typically you are competing against five or six and this allows for more successes. A really strong camp will allow your teen to find something that he or she can be proud of, in other words a chance to rebrand themselves.

4. Camping experiences can also nurture feelings about being more in control. When teens are away from home traveling, independent of their parents, they are able to develop a sense of competence.They have to be better problem solvers and often experience repeated situations of self-advocacy. They develop a belief in their ability to make decisions.

5. Typically a camp experience will nurture also a culture of treating children fairly. This isn't always the case in public schools and sometimes even private schools. Certainly in my experience of talking with kids about their camping experience, in the majority of cases they are very positive.

6. A camping experience also nurtures physical development; foster exercise, balanced routines, structured as well as unstructured time. Typically we are likely to see extremely healthy lifestyles without the social media component.

7. Camps for all ages often showcase a since of culture in the camping experience. For example, camps give both cultural roots and a chance to see others who have cultures very different from their own. This experience allows kids to have a fuller range of experiences during the summertime.

8. One of the best experiences of camps, particularly for teens, is a chance to develop that sense of belonging. So often you hear teens that struggle in their management throughout the year and always feel that they are outsiders in a regular school setting. When they have the camping experience whether they go to a college camp or wherever, the series of experiences they have and the sense of common purpose increases feelings of strong identity. In other words, while they may not feel like they belong in their regular school, certainly a sense of camp can sometimes be a game changer.

9. The long term benefits of working as a counselor for your older child is that he or she has the experience of working with kids, gaining leadership experience, the experience of putting others first, gaining independence by making new friends and being in a new environment and networking amongst peers.

10. The short term benefits include creative self-expression, positive social interactions and meaningful participation in camp activities. These are all part of the growth experiences we continue to emphasize on Teen Talk.

You can watch Teen Talk every other Monday morning at 6:30am on WTXL's Sunrise.