One of the many reasons behind sending children to summer camp is the opportunity to reach out and create new friendships. Does it mean sending a child to a camp which is also being attended by one (or more) of the child’s current friends should be discouraged? Absolutely not!
Social interaction definitely comes easier for some children. A child attending a camp with a friend will already start the new journey with less stress. There is no doubt children get past the initial stage fright of making new acquaintances, but having a friend at the same camp can actually make it easier for social interaction with other children.
Make New Friends
When parents agree to send a child along with a friend to camp, they should approach it in a proactive manner. Let the child know it is great to have a buddy along for the camp experience, but also instill an additional mindset – one which lets the child know it is perfectly acceptable to reach out to new children socially and discover new friendships. The parents of all your child’s friends going to camp should get together and talk about this as well. This prevents an instance of one friend having thoughts of abandonment when the other child makes new friends during camp. It allows all parents to reinforce the idea of making the most out of new friendship opportunities.
Keep the Old
Even though parents may have addressed the issue of a friend making new friends at camp, take the opportunity to make your child be aware of what to do if the ‘old’ friend feels left out. Many children would already have the presence of mind to include an old friend in an unscheduled activity, but it is always best to have parents mention this to their children. Most camps are monitored in a way where exclusion is noticed by a counselor or coach, but not everything is always noticed.
Enjoy the Camp
Depending on the camp, friends may automatically be separated in activities for various reasons. For instance, two friends attending a baseball camp may be assigned different stations or drills due to playing different positions, or by skill level of each child. Explain to children that this is to be expected and how the friends can meet up again at lunch or at another time during the camp day.
With a bit of careful pre-planning by the parents, the children attending camps with one or more friends will have the satisfaction of knowing others from the start, and parents will see such desired goals as decision making, peer social interaction and a sense of fulfillment achieved through the camp experience.