How Summer Camp Can Help With Self-Reliance
by Stacia Garland

Why are some kids more self-reliant than others?  People learn to be self-reliant because they had to. They had to make decisions for themselves and provide for themselves in some manner. Most parents hope to raise self-reliant children, the child who at some point can care for themselves with confidence while learning to expect more from themselves than from others.

One opportunity parents have to help bolster their child’s self-reliance is summer camp. Celebrated in songs and movies, camp provides kids with the freedom to think for themselves, without parental oversight, as they choose friends and activities. At camp, children will have the liberty to make decisions and take chances. They will get to explore and be responsible, all of which will help develop independence. Camp is a time to take on new ventures, such as archery, hiking, fishing, and even story-telling. This will allow kids to test their own capabilities and find confidence in their own skills to take on even more challenges.

American writer, Gever Tulley, stated, “When we protect children from every possible source of danger, we also prevent them from having the kinds of experiences that develop their sense of self-reliance, their ability to assess and mitigate risk, and their sense of accomplishment.” More autonomy is associated with less childhood anxiety. It is important that parents show confidence in their child’s ability to handle camp on their own. Ask your child what they think about going to camp, ask them to weigh risks and benefits; this will help facilitate their self-awareness of their own emotions about being away from home. And, to avoid raising their anxiety level, do not tell your child the joke my father told me before attending camp: What do bears call campers in their sleeping bags? Answer: Burritos.

For some children, this will be their first time to have a prolonged period of independence. Their parents will not be there to remind them to make their beds, brush their teeth, and clean up their messes. Kids must figure out how to live in this new world on their own and most will take on the challenge as they learn they can be self-reliant and find solutions to their own problems. Not all camps involve the stereotypical back to nature and crafts theme. If this does not suit your child’s own interest, consider a sports, music, or science camp that will further your child’s field of interest. The important idea is to allow and offer your child the opportunity to grow, apart from you, and develop self-reliance.