Should My Child Go to Overnight Camp with a Friend?
One of the questions that often arises for parents when considering overnight camp is whether to send their child to camp with a friend or not. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, however, there are certainly many factors families should consider when making this decision.
Camp is all about making new friends and parents shouldn’t worry that if they don’t send their child to camp with a friend that they will have difficulty. “Kids can come to camp with a friend from home but it isn’t necessary.
Camps create so many ways for children to feel comfortable, even before camp begins, with a big brother program or new camper picnic,” explains Matt Jackowitz, Director of Camp Winaukee, an all-boys overnight camp in New Hampshire.
“The decision of whether to go to camp with a friend or not comes down to personal prefer- ence. If you do decide to send your child to camp with a friend, it’s important that all the parents involved partner with the director and everyone knows what each child needs to be successful.”
Stacey Landman, Owner and Director of Camp Kennybrook, a coed overnight camp in the Catskills, says that going to camp alone is often the best way to start camp.
“Almost every- one doesn’t know anyone so they are starting in the same situation. We also do a lot before camp even begins to encourage connections and to help campers feel comfortable by the time they get to camp. We do new camper zooms and will also connect kids from the same group or bunk so by the time they arrive at camp, they have 2-3 familiar faces.”
Landman feels that when you go to a camp with a friend from home, you don’t necessarily learn how to socialize without a crutch which can inhibit the social piece of camp.
“Often times, one friend is more outgoing while the other is timid. There can be a sense of depen- dency on the outgoing friend which is a big re- sponsibility for that child. This dynamic doesn’t necessarily lead to personal growth.”
Renee Flax from the American Camp Association, NY & NJ works with hundreds of families each year looking for a camp and says that camp can sometimes change a friend- ship from home, and not always for the best.
“A child can go to camp believing that their friend from home will also be their best friend at camp. Sometimes they are but sometimes they aren’t. Camp is a place to grow and expand your horizons which includes making new friends. If your child’s friend from home begins to pair off with another child in the bunk, your child may feel very hurt. Conversely, your child may want to pair off with another camper and feels guilty doing that to their existing friend.”
Flax also feels one of the benefits of going to camp without a friend is that children get to reinvent themselves at camp. “If they no longer want to be considered the shy one or the non-athletic one, they can present themselves however they want to be perceived. It is one of the greatest gifts camp can offer a child— the ability to spread your wings and truly soar.”
Sometimes going to camp with a friend is the only way a child will agree to go. “Going to camp with a friend is often a jumping off point to get a child to experience overnight camp. Sending a child with a friend can also some- times be easier for a parent who never went to camp themselves. If going with a friend is how to get them to camp, we are mindful of that,” adds Landman.
Jackowitz says the more information they have from families when children come to camp together, the better.
“There is no one size fits all. It comes down to the relationship between the two friends and how they work. We will set them up for success either way which might mean separating them and putting them in different bunks or maybe it’s best to keep them together. With good communication from the families, we will put a plan in place to ensure that everyone in the bunk has the opportunity to branch out and get to know everyone.”
For parents unsure of what to do, Flax suggests talking to the camp director. “The camp director will be able to give you wonderful advice and tools you will need to make camp successful for your child.”
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