Today’s Children Need Camp More Than Ever

Posted on May 14, 2012 by spreston

– By Catherine  Ross, CCA/ACC Communications Officer

On March 31, 2012, Elizabeth Renzetti, Globe and Mail columnist, wrote an article about overanxious parents.  She concluded with these statements:  “They [children] need to be saved from us, their saviours.  They need to be released into the wild, among the pimply and pierced who are their own kind, where they will be fine.  Probably.”  No doubt she was speaking metaphorically, but I chose to read her advice literally.

What better place for children to be gently weaned from parental anxiety, dependence and overindulgence than at camp!

Renzetti was responding to a story about the ban of the 2012 Easter Egg Hunt in Bancroft Park near Colorado Springs because in 2011, parents jumped the gun before the official start to gather eggs  to ensure that their children did not miss out on their chocolate treats.  I recalled a similar experience in my own home when some of my former counsellor staff visited with their young children.  I had laid out an Easter Egg Hunt for the children in the living and dining rooms so that the parent s could visit in the family room while enjoying a quiet cup of coffee.  I drank by myself.  The parents, holding the baskets, were all too busy following their offspring, pointing out the eggs the children might have missed!  They had forgotten one of the cardinal rules drummed into them as camp counselors: never do for children what they are capable of doing for themselves with effort.

On May 1, a second Globe and Mail article addressed another trend: excessive spending on dresses, limos, professional photographers, makeup, manicures and pedicures to celebrate grade six graduations.  Parents struggle to find the balance between making the occasion special without indulging every whim and wish.   Some parent s have difficulty saying “no”.  Psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb in an article How to Land your Kid in Therapy refers to parents with an overwhelming fixation on their children’s happiness and a desire to protect them from all life’s knocks.  She says, “Parental overinvestment is contributing to a burgeoning generational narcissism hurting our kids.”

Again, enter camp!

Children need camp where they learn to live quite happily with less: minimum clothing (whatever fits into the duffle bag), limited living space (a bunk and a cubby) and fewer amenities (no TV and computer in their sleeping quarters and rarely an ensuite bathroom).  They learn to share the available equipment, the food on the table and their counsellor’s attention.  They learn to co-operate to build a campfire, tidy their cabin or tandem a canoe.  And in the process, they discover that life can be fun and fulfilling without all the trappings they thought were absolutely necessary because, according to their perspective, everyone has one! They discover that they can cope temporarily and make simple choices and decisions without constant parental consultation at the other end of a cell phone.

On the question of access to cell phones at camp, each director in consultation with parents and staff has to ultimately decide,” What is best for the campers?”