Can Sleepaway Camp Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem?

Shared from Dave Devey, Owner (and former camper) of Falcon Camp in Carrollton, Ohio.

More than 25% of children experience bullying in their years of school, and with that number rising as children gain more access to social media and technology, it seems more important now than ever to ensure our children are well equipped to handle bullying effectively. Depending on the situation, bullying not only takes an emotional toll on a child but often a physical and mental toll as well, because parents can’t always help. Only 20 percent of kids who are bullied ever tell an adult about it. One of the main components of bullying preventing is building self-esteem, and sleepaway camps are the best place for kids to do this.

Traditional sleepaway camps put a heavy focus on unplugging from media and being in tune with peers and nature. By leaving the electronics at home, whether it is a phone, tablet, or computer, your child will get a break from being constantly bombarded with overwhelming images and messages that focus on physical appearance. Although many of these unrealistic physical goals are directed towards young girls, young boys are also inundated with these images and messages.

For girls, the messages often focus on having to be thin and beautiful to be loved and be successful. The images placed in front of young girls are more times than not digitally retouched to remove any blemishes, which is not a look that is achieved naturally in real life, nor is it attainable for every woman.

For boys, the message is often about unattainable physical appearance. Physical appearance lends itself to popularity because media portrays the message that unfit and unattractive can’t be popular. The media glorifies the extremely masculine man, and that showing emotion, not being buff, or not succumbing to traditional male stereotypes, you will face rejection.

Attending sleepaway summer camps helps girls and boys become more comfortable without their makeup, nice clothes, styled hair, and more comfortable being around their peers in these situations as well. Many of the changes that take place are superficial as their physical appearance begins to change, but it runs deeper than that.

When kids start caring less about their appearance and more on tangible skills or life experiences, they learn to focus on things that are bigger than themselves. By removing the distractions of materialistic ideals and unattainable physical appearances, children are able to learn the value of the talents, character, and skills of their fellow campers. When we take the focus away from superficial qualities, children begin seeing their worth without these things. Campers learn that their attitude, how they treat others, and how they get through difficult situations matter more than what kind of shoes someone is wearing or how thin they are.

Building Confidence by Making Decisions
Personal success is not the only facet of self-esteem. Feeling confidence and sound in your decisions, whether as a kid choosing between two activities or an adult faced with a complex decision, the ability to be confident in the tough decisions in life is crucial. Sleepaway summer camps, such as Falcon Camp, pride themselves on allowing campers to choose their own activities. Not only does this allow campers to find their passions, but give them experience making decisions. These scenarios teach children not only how to make decisions, but how to deal with them if they decide they made the wrong one. Developing a sense of personal capacity can help your children in their adult life when decisions are harder to make and come with consequences. The less someone doubts themselves, no matter the nature of the decision, they happier and more confident they will be.

Celebrating Personal Achievements
The community spirit of summer campers is something well-documented in every movie, story, and blog you’ll read because there is truly nothing else like it. One of the biggest parts of that is celebrating personal achievements and knowing nothing is too small to celebrate. Regardless of a camper’s age or skill level, counselors and peers offer words of encouragement and celebration for personal milestones. Whether it is mastering a new skill, making a friend, or finally starting to improve on a new skill, the spirit of sleepaway camp tells kids they can do what they put their mind to, especially when they believe in themselves.

At camps like ours, we see campers rally around each other to help in both group and individual projects, because of the sense of community. Self-esteem is just as much about cooperation and community as it is about personal accomplishments, which is why sleepaway camp is the ideal place to foster positive self-esteem.

Sleepaway summer camps are not about celebrating single campers for extraordinary talents. The environment is cultivated by encouragement, collaboration, and mutual respect. These characteristics lend itself to providing children with a sense of self-worth and dignity from working together.

There is more to life than designer clothes, perfectly styled hair, and being thin, and sleepaway camps are the perfect environment for children to not only learn this but embrace it as well. Learning life skills is not the only emphasis at summer camp. Building character, working in teams, learning how to navigate through difficult decisions, and developing resilience are all integral components of traditional sleepaway camps.

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Author: Heather Zachariah

Former Art Director for Home Magazine, Heather Leahy Zachariah, left her career in publishing after baby number number one. She now works from home as a freelance graphic designer and a chauffeur to her 3 busy kids. "Working on TipsFromTown has been a wonderful outlet for me. It renewed my love of publishing where I can design colorful, enticing pages online and allows me to share the things I love about being a mom." Heather grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a place that still is near and dear to her. " After living in Brooklyn for 18 years and studying Graphic Design at Pratt Institute, she now lives in the Jersey burbs. "I love living so close to NYC, but in my heart, I'm an Ohio girl."


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