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Will your kids brave the elements this summer?

The cabins, the bunk beds, the bonfires. Sleepover camp may be the pinnacle of summer nostalgia. We’re stoked that so many parents want their kids to experience the joys of sleepover camp this summer.

But it’s not easy. To be sure, along with the bliss of dock jumping and star gazing comes homesickness and lack of communication (not to mention the threat of bed bugs and risk of questionably cooked meatballs).

Sleepover camp can be bittersweet.

But as any camper-at-heart knows, those trials and tribulations are exactly what make it the memorable life experience it is. Without the threat of critters of the night lurking outside cabin walls, that bunk may not feel so ridiculously cozy. Without the sweaty day-long schlep through the forest, that mess-hall spaghetti may not taste  so delicious.

Sleepover camp is definitely one great way for kids to experience emotions ranging from pain and defeat in the great outdoors to outrageous new friend hilarity. Those feelings make a kid’s life richer. But according to new parenting books, kids may learn to be more successful in life at sleepover camp situations whens parents aren’t around.

According to author and child psychologist Michael Thompson, “parental efforts to provide continual encouragement and scaffolding can undermine a child’s confidence … when a child is anxious or frightened, it sets off a parent’s anxious identification, and when the child sees the worry in the parent’s face—or worse yet, a forced cheerfulness that doesn’t fool a child for a second—it makes the child even more anxious.”

That sounds like a lot of complex layers. Especially difficult is that a caring parent can’t really do much to help it. That’s why it’s thought that a camp counsellor who takes a more “going through the motions” approach to teaching a kid how to dive or set up a fire pit for example, may have the result of instilling more confidence in the kid solely because they’re not as emotionally invested in the process.

The same kind of treatment makes kids more likely to clean their cabin and wolf down that bowl of soggy lentils – campers want to show their counselors and peers they’re a competent member of the community, not a baby who has to be nagged to pull their own weight.

Sleepover camp may be a tiny microcosm of life. It’s hard on everyone involved, it’s messy to the max, but the rewards make you forget about everything else. Even if you can’t send your kid to camp this summer, we have some great ideas for bringing camp to you! Here’s how to have a DIY summer camp experience at home.

Now ready that bike — it’s going to be a killer summer.

photo: christianacare via Flickr. 

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