Growing up, all I wanted to do was go to sleepaway camp. But not just any sleepaway camp. I wanted to go to one where I’d find my long-lost twin sister.
We’d spend a week or two giving one another horribly dirty looks from across camp with our respective friends taking our sides, and then we’d end up in trouble and forced to camp together in an isolated cabin.
We’d realize that our parents split us up when we were infants, and we’d hatch a plan to cut our hair and sneak home to meet our estranged other parent before getting them back together so we could live happily ever after.
Meanwhile, no one would ever mention the fact that each parent completely neglected one child for 13 years because they were too selfish to see one another again.
Yes, I did grow up on the Parent Trap (the original…not the Lindsay Lohan version, though my own kids adore her version). No, my parents did not send me to sleepaway camp.
Even if they did, I wouldn’t have found a long-lost twin being that my parents are still happily married and they didn’t give me a twin sister. They gave me an irritating younger brother who I did not care for until I was in my 20s (no bitterness here, right?).
My point is that sleepaway camp is a real thing, but it’s not a real thing for everyone. In middle school, I did do a four-night sleepaway church camp with a friend’s mom and about 10 of my friends. I fell in love with a boy whose name I cannot remember, and I realized then and there that camping – even in a cabin – is absolutely not for me.
Is Sleepaway Camp a Good Idea?
Traditionally, a summer sleepaway camp is a little longer than four nights. Some are as short as a week, and many are as long eight weeks. I did four nights as a middle school-aged teen, and I despised it.
I missed home and my bed and family. I’m not much of a people person, so making new friends is not something I’m ever particularly interested in doing. That said, some kids thrive at sleepaway camp.
It’s not prevalent where I live in Florida. Would I send my kids to sleepaway camp? H*** no. Absolutely not. I don’t care much for sending my kids to sleepovers with their own friends…I’m not truly comfortable or happy unless all six of us are under the same roof together. Sleepaway camp is a no-go for my family.
However, there are other families who love it, support it, and cannot think of anything more amazing than camp. Honestly, it’s a personal decision, but I understand that sleepaway camp is an experience that is wholly worthwhile, and it might be perfect for you and your kids.
In short, sleepaway camp is a great idea for some kids, a terrible idea for others, and a necessity for some. It’s also a very personal decision, so we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons, the reasons, and the whys for you.
I like to think my opinion is the Holy Grail of all opinions, but it’s not – so I’m happy to provide everyone with a comprehensive concept of sleepaway camp so you can make your own educated decisions.
Why Would I Consider Sleepaway Camp?
There are numerous reasons to send your kids to sleepaway camp. However, the most common reason seems to be childcare. When school ends for the summer, it presents some working families with a problem.
If you work outside the home, you cannot simply take 10 or 11 weeks off to care for your kids. What do you do with them all day? Even if your kids are old enough to stay home on their own, many families are uncomfortable with the idea of their kids sitting home day after day all summer doing nothing.
The lack of structure isn’t appealing. This is when sleepaway camp becomes an option (do keep in mind that there are numerous day camps available in many places, too, if sleepaway camp just doesn’t work for you.)
How Do I Know if My Child is Ready for Sleepaway Camp?
Who is ever really ready for anything, if we are being honest? In many instances, it’s not the child who isn’t ready for sleepaway camp. It’s the parents.
They aren’t ready to send their kids away for that many nights, that far away. They think their child isn’t ready, but children are often far more equipped to handle things like this than we are. Only you know your child, but you might be surprised just how exciting something like this for a kid.
Additionally, sleepaway camp is a tremendous opportunity for growth. Your child might learn so much at camp that they aren’t getting elsewhere, and that is so beneficial. Confidence is a big factor – kids who go to sleepaway camp leave with a lot of confidence in themselves because they learn to do so many new things in a new setting.
They may be timid, scared, and nervous at first, but they’re more than likely coming home brimming with excitement and newfound confidence following all they learned and how much they grew.
The Pros of Sending Your Child to Sleepaway Camp
There are pros and cons associated with every decision, and sleepaway camp is no exception to this rule. Aside from the fact that your kids get to have fun, make new friends, and you are not worried about what to do with them all summer while you work, there are many additional pros associated with camp.
Kids who go to sleepaway camp learn to be independent. At the risk of sounding like I’m calling us all bad parents, we tend to micromanage our kids a bit more than necessary. At camp, they’re still going to brush their teeth and comb their hair even if we aren’t there to tell them to do it. They’ll learn to do these things without the constant reminders – and we all benefit from that upon their return home.
Kids who visit sleepaway camp spend a significant amount of time outdoors, and virtually no time using electronics. Some camps don’t even allow cell phones and computers or iPads. Others might limit screen time significantly. Regardless, your child will spend more time outdoors participating in exciting activities, which is good for their health – both mentally and physically – and their bodies.
Bonding With New Friends
Kids who visit sleepaway camp form their own little families with their new friends. Oftentimes, these camp friendships turn into lifelong friendships. They’ll write letters, send emails, and make friends from all walks of life from all over the country and even the world. They’ll learn new things and new customs and traditions, and that is such a great thing.
Your child is going to learn to become much more confident at camp because they have no choice. They’re learning new skills, trying new things they are unlikely to try otherwise, and all of that is a game-changer. Think about this: Will you teach your child the art of archery? What about canoeing and boating? How about sports? They’re learning so many new things they are not otherwise exposed to when they’re not at camp, and that teaches valuable life lessons.
You Get a Break
All right, this one might be a pro or a con. For me, I’d consider it more of a con. My husband and I like to take breaks from the kids. Weekends away for just the two of us. Time away on date night. They go to sleepovers. But we don’t do well with extended ‘breaks’ from the kids. Anything over three nights is just painful for us, but many families need a longer break.
The Cons of Sending Your Child to Sleepaway Camp
Every pro has a con, and every adventure has a downside. Sleepaway camp is not the ideal situation for every family, and the list of cons is usually why.
Your Children Do Not Adapt
Not all children adapt to being away from home and their own comfort zones and parents. If your child is one of those kids, they might struggle more than they thrive at camp. This might mean misery, heartbreaking phone calls and letters, and a lot of guilt. Sending a child to camp who is not ready or who doesn’t have that kind of resilient personality might do more harm than good.
Camp is Expensive
Sure, every camp is different, so not all prices are the same. But you are sending your child to a place with round the clock childcare, food, activities, and accommodations, and that is often a hefty pricetag. I don’t know the specifics, but I’d imagine thousands of dollars per child is spent on sleepaway camp. It has to be something you can afford and that’s worth it to you.
Your Child Might Not Make Friends
What sounds worse than sending a child to camp for the summer? Sending your child to camp for the summer only to realize your child doesn’t get along well with other kids. The idea of sending your child away only to find out your child was lonely and feeling left out all summer will break your heart.
You Miss Your Kids
If you’re like us, a few nights away is all right. More than three nights, however, and the game changes. No one is having any fun any longer because we miss our kids and our family unit.
You Fear for Your Child’s Safety
Summer camps go above and beyond to ensure that your child is as safe as can be, but anything can happen. Accidents, injuries, illness, and even worse might occur.
Those employed by summer camps are vetted, checked, and are not hired if they have any negatives on their background check, but there is always the fear that someone is mistreating your child.
Abusing them, hurting them, doing something inappropriate – and it might not even be a counselor or employee. It might be another camper. You simply don’t know, and that fear is prevalent in the minds of so many people. If you fear for the safety of your child, sleepaway camp is not for you.
No One Can Make the Decision for You
The simple fact of the matter is that sleepaway camp is a personal decision. You know your kids, I don’t. No one can tell you that it’s the right or wrong decision, but you can do your research.
I’d advise finding camps that interest you. Perhaps keep in mind camps that are close to home. Many families feel more comfortable sending their children to a camp closer to home.
As a Floridian, I’d feel more comfortable sending my child to camp in Florida or Georgia than to Michigan. Proximity makes me feel more comfortable.
Discuss the idea with your kids. They might surprise you. Mine surprise me on a daily basis, and often with things that I don’t love, like conjunctivitis or strep throat when everyone was fine the day before.
The point is that we tend to project our own feelings onto our kids, and they don’t feel that way. For example, our middle daughter – the one in sixth grade – recently learned she is near-sighted and needs glasses.
My heart broke for her because I remember being in sixth grade and learning I was near-sighted and needed glasses (and now my vision is so bad I’m not even near-sighted anymore because I can’t see a thing, but I’m comfortable in both my contacts and glasses).
My point is that I stressed over it only to realize she’s excited about wearing glasses. She looks good in them, and she’s confident enough to know it. But I was so busy projecting my own feelings onto her that I never considered she might like them. My mom of the year trophy is still lost in the mail, in case you were wondering.
You can also read:
- 20 Ways to Build Lifelong Confidence in Kids
- How to Get Your Children to Follow a Routine Without Reminders
- 10 Safe Phone Alternatives for Kids
- 7 Strategies to Make Sure Your Kids Aren’t Entitled