As parents, we are constantly thinking of ways to help our children grow and develop into happy, healthy and successful adults.
Most of us can admit to being a bit overprotective at times. It all comes with the territory of being loving parents. We simply want what’s best for our kids.
So, as a result, we push them to achieve academically. We cheer them on as they participate in team sports. And we encourage them to develop strong, long-lasting relationships with trustworthy and dependable friends.
That last little facet of child rearing isn’t one that should be taken lightly. Mental health experts have noticed that America’s children are more isolated from their peers than ever before.
Because they rarely see other children outside of school, apart from organized sporting activities or rare play dates, they aren’t developing appropriate social skills.
This is especially true in an America where children are so used to modern technologies (tablets, video games, YouTube etc.) taking up their time, they’re not as accustomed to interacting with others the way we did as kids.
The “olden days” concept of knocking on a neighbor’s door to come out and play seems to be non-existent in modern-day America. And this isn’t particularly healthy for our kids.
How can making new friends benefit your child’s health?
The idea that one’s physical health can be significantly impacted by his/her emotional health is no myth.
Time and time again, medical professionals have drawn links between happiness and wellness. And as vital as making friends is to a child’s social development, it is just as essential to his/her overall well-being.
Studies have found that children who regularly play and interact with their friends experience health benefits.
They show that active kids with friends are much less likely to encounter emotional barriers that prevent them from exercising. As well, having low self-esteem, feeling self-conscious and experiencing depression are incredibly rare in children who regularly engage with other kids.
In addition, studies have also found that friendships help kids to learn more about themselves. With reduced levels of stress and boosted levels of confidence, children develop their self-identities at quicker rates.
How can you help your children to develop friendships?
Like many other facets of parenting, it all starts with your own behaviors.
It’s important that you demonstrate how friendships work by allowing your kids to see the ways in which you interact with your own friends.
Showcasing an ability to be dependable, caring and generous will go a long way in helping to develop character traits in your child that will make him/her sought after as a friend by other children.
Of course, getting your child to meet those other children will take a bit of encouragement. It is recommended that you gently coach your child, if necessary.
In private, help your child to practice making eye contact, smiling, speaking assertively and using people’s names. This is especially important if your child is particularly shy.
Naturally, it will also be important to enrol your child in group activities where they can meet new kids. This is where summer camp provides the perfect solution!
What makes summer camp the perfect place for your kids to make friends?
It goes without saying that summer camp places children from various areas in a social setting that encourages them to engage with one another.
Being part of groups and teams helps to instil feelings of camaraderie. Children are expected to be there for each other – to work together in efforts to win games, create pieces of art and help with various aspects of camping life (setting up tents, for example).
This sense of unity and togetherness presents the ideal situation for kids to interact, get to know each other and grow their social skills. Some experts believe that this is especially important for young boys.
Fred Frankel is the founder and former director of the Parenting and Children’s Friendship Program at UCLA, and author of Friends Forever: How Parents Can Help Their Kids Make and Keep Good Friends.
He believes that boys are three times more likely to struggle with forming friendships than girls. He attributes this to their senses of competitiveness, noting that boys are less likely to help each other in social situations.
How do you go about finding the right camp for your child?
Consider the things that your child enjoys and begin there.
Do you want to send him/her to a specialized camp that may focus on particular talents? There are numerous summer camps that center on sports, music and visual arts.
Naturally, you’ll also want a little insight into the people who are running the camp. Inquire about the counselors and learn about their training and experience.
There are other questions to ask as well. Would you prefer your child enrol in a day camp or one that will keep him/her overnight? What food will your child be eating while he/she is away at camp?
Again, finding the perfect fit for your child will begin with having a conversation with him/her. But no matter which camp you choose, there will definitely be new friends to make.
And, as you know, making new friends is a huge part of your child’s development and overall good health.
The USA Camp Association is committed to helping you find the perfect camp for your children. Check out our summer camp directory to locate the best fit for your child.
And please don’t hesitate to contact us directly if you have any questions!