Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

The Joy of Being a Camp Parent
A letter from the American Camp Association

by Peg Smith

May 01, 2011

Dear Parents,

Welcome! Welcome to the joy of being a camp parent. The greatest gifts that parents can give their children are independence and resiliency, and by choosing to send your child to camp, you have given both.

By choosing to send your child to camp, you are placing them in an intentional environment designed specifically to help develop the life skills needed to be a successful and competent adult — skills like self-confidence, leadership, and empathy. Your child will have the opportunity to develop new interests and authentic relationships with mentors and peers — experiences that truly last a lifetime.

Through the camp experience, your child has become a member of a wonderful community — a community where character is built and civility toward each other is nurtured. In a world where interactions with other people have become increasingly impersonal, the ability to relate to another human being — to understand that the world is bigger and more complex than a Facebook profile page — is paramount.

Tomorrow’s leaders will not be those who can type or text with lightning speed, they will be those who can have a face-to-face conversation and articulate their thoughts, ideas, and values. Tomorrow’s leaders will be able to relate globally and find common ground with people who are vastly different from themselves — people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Tomorrow’s leaders will be made and educated by experiences like camp.

Camp is one of the oldest and finest community-based experiential education and development models in America. With concerns about summer learning loss, it’s important for families to know that camp truly is a classroom without walls — providing fun designed around intentional programming.

Research tells us that involvement in intentional programs during summer months can help stem the natural summer learning loss that occurs when children are out of school. For 150 years, camp has been the natural extension of traditional education — an intentional, expanded learning environment that provides enrichment and a hands-on experiential education like no other.

Camp is the continuation and expansion of a traditional education. It focuses on the whole child — providing physical, social, and developmental growth, all of which are precursors to academic achievement. Camp is an equal opportunity life-changer and provides hands-on experiences that allow all children, even those who struggle in traditional educational settings, to feel successful and have a sense of accomplishment.

As the parent of a camper, you will notice amazing changes in your child. You will see growth and maturity and confidence when your camper returns home. As a camp parent, I watched my son after he returned from summer camp with wonder. It was obvious that remarkable growth was underway. He was engaged, giving, and confident.

It was then that I “got it” from the parent perspective. Simply viewing camp as a fun experience was somehow to miss the point — it’s more than that. Camp is a place where children have their mental, personal, emotional, and physical needs nurtured. Where they learn to get along with others, to take safe risks, to deal with conflict in a constructive way that encourages them to be creative, to explore and discover, to learn by actively doing, to try — and sometimes to fail and try again. In the camp community, I find what I intuitively know as a parent — to be a positive, productive adult, one needs the opportunity to truly experience childhood. That is how genuine growth happens.

Congratulations on the decision to join the ranks of the camp parent. You have joined a contemporary tradition that is 150 years young — one that has strengthened the fabric of America and will continue to do so in the future.

Your fellow parent,

Peg Smith, CEO, American Camp Association