Susan Fee raised some wonderful points in her piece on fostering healthy relationships among girls, which is a huge part of life and often, a huge struggle, especially for young girls. Camp was the place where I learned how to be real friends with girls after growing up with mostly boys. Camp is also the place where I learned how to recognize true friends from less than pleasant acquaintances. With that and Susan Fee’s much wiser words in mind, here is how I know camp can help girls form healthy friendships-
As opposed to school, where kids are often in competition with one another, camp is a place where girls can strive for their best without making anyone feel lesser for it. It sounds small but by removing competition and immersing them in an environment where they are encouraged to be no more or less than exactly who they are, it also allows them to a clear understanding of the respect and compassion that they deserve. Simply, in a space where you are fully accepted, it makes it much easier to recognize the relationships that do not give you the same respect and acceptance.
Set Realistic Expectations
Camp friendships happen quickly; we go from stranger to acquaintance over a few hours and some Get-to-Know-You games. With that kind of accelerated progression, it’s important that we keep our expectations of how we treat each other very clear. It’s so much a part of what we do that it is often our campers who first step up to shut down any behavior that is not in keep with “how we act at camp.”
Coach, don’t solve
I think one of the greatest opportunities you can give a child is the chance to solve her own problems; it teaches her what she is capable of and builds on a skill that she will use for the rest of her life. The conversations that happen at camp when an issue arises and allows for this kind of choice always includes whether the campers wants to counselor to handle it, to handle it herself or if she wants them to take care of it together.
Camp is a place where you can be yourself, completely. That kind of freedom and acceptance makes it all the easier for a girl’s true strengths and passions to shine through. Add that to the variety of activities and classes that a girl can participate in at camp and it starts to seem like the place was designed to bring out the best in the campers, which it was.
Be a role model
Camp friendships are an incredible thing because of the environment and timeframe over which they develop. At camps, like Fleur de Lis, where the staff has grown up at camp, campers get to see just how long a friendship forged over a few weeks at camp can last and how important they can turn out to be.
Ask the right questions.
Unfortunately, it’s all too rare for a child to have an adult in her life who has time to just hang out and talk; we are all so busy that there never seems to be enough time for much. But all camp, for all that we have to do, there is always time for a talk, whether it be well past Taps or during a thoroughly unrestful Rest Hour.
So just keep in mind that when your daughter returns from camp this summer, she may come back having moved up a level in swimming, mastered some amazing arts and crafts skills, and had just too much fun to completely explain but she might have also gained the skills to form happy, healthy friendships for the rest of her life. It’s just another part of what makes camp so magical.