Many summer camps in Ontario promise to develop independence within their campers. Kettleby Valley is no exception. It’s right there, in bold writing on our home page. I believe that independence is vital to the development of a child. But I’m beginning to question the wisdom of highlighting a feature of our camp that makes some parents feel so uneasy.
When I first started working for summer camps, independence seemed to be something that every parent wanted for their child. And what better way to develop such a thing than to spend some time at camp with friends away from Mom and Dad? Things have changed. Each day I talk to parents about our camp and they ask questions like, “Can I stay with my child when they come to camp?” or “I want to talk with my child when they’re at your camp, do I just call the main office?” The most common inquiry is, “Can I send my child with a cell phone in case they want to talk to me?” These are sincere questions coming from caring parents who are worried that their child might not like the camp or become homesick.
There has always been the possibility that a camper will suffer from homesickness. However the number of homesick cases hasn’t noticeably increased over the last 15 years. And when a camper becomes homesick, they don’t want their parents at camp, they want themselves at home. So, as a Camp Director, what can I do to help the parents?
Staying with the child at camp isn’t in the cards and allowing campers to have cell phones is a recipe for disaster. Incoming calls, games, internet use, and lost, broken or submerged phones are the short list of problems with this might lead to. However, a call home from a child’s Counsellor might go a long way to putting a parent’s mind at ease. Emailing a picture their child might also do the trick. If I consider the number of people who make these requests, we would have a maximum of five extra calls to make each week. Not a bad trade off to help parents get through the experience.
Our focus doesn’t need to be on fostering independence within the camper – they want their independence. The focus needs to be placed on helping the parents deal with the anxiety associated with fostering independence within their children.