Summer Camp: Our Kids' Antidote to Pandemic Living
Years before COVID-19, there existed a world-wide outbreak amongst our youth in technology addiction, social skill deficiency, indoors isolation, and over-parenting.
And now, since March 2020, our kids have been living an increasingly bizarre, unnatural life of screens and quarantines, hybrid schooling (if they’re lucky), and enough fear and disappointment to last them into adulthood. However, in the midst of the insanity, we learned that summer camp can become a beacon of hope, a lifeline towing them back to their normal selves.
Sugar Bay re-opened in December 2020 and we have since successfully hosted 9 weeks of holiday camps. While safety guidelines and a modified program were necessary, the fundamental essence of camp remained intact: Kids, playing together, mentored by caring staff, and in most cases — outdoors. According to the campers, parents, and staff, it was by far their most meaningful camp experience ever, as well as an impactful life event. And think about it — that was after months of screens and quarantines.
In 2020, many camps didn’t open, many due to government restrictions, others by choice. The camps that did open showed great resiliency and creativity in adapting and flourishing within their new parameters, doing it better than most schools. While some families and staff chose to postpone their camp attendance — most didn’t want to miss out, even in the midst of a pandemic, despite apprehensions. What were these people, crazy? Absolutely not. They strongly believed that the benefits outweighed the perceived risk. After almost two compromised school years and everything that’s gone along with it, our children’s need for the benefits of summer camp will be crucially important:
REAL HUMAN CONNECTION — Zoom and remote learning have saved us in so many ways. But there’s no substitute for real human connection. Making and strengthening relationships while being guided by loving people is what camp is all about. The essence of camp is in the friendships we forge, something we are all lacking and craving these days.
REACQUAINTING OURSELVES WITH NATURE — While society has been trapped indoors for the past year, most of the world is outdoors, and it is amazingly beautiful, and fills our soul with joy. From picture perfect days, to “liquid sunshine” washouts — it’s real living — the way our ancestors lived for thousands of years, until the advent of central air, video screens, and the internet. Our bodies yearn for the outdoors, and that’s where most summer camps happen.
RESILIENCY — Our kids are certainly developing it; experiencing disappointments that will make them stronger. Learning to be brave and confronting challenges and fears are also important facets of resiliency. It’s easier to stay at home and stare at screens — but we want our kids to grow up with the kind of courage and “can-do” attitude that our health care, essential workers, and superhero school teachers have learned and cultivated.
MENTAL HEALTH — While summer camp is widely known for its physical health benefits, “Children’s mental health during public health emergencies can have both short and long term consequences to their overall health and well-being,” so it’s no surprise that hospital visits related to mental health have risen dramatically for school age children and adolescents. Kids are resilient and can bounce back quickly. But a year and a half of stress and anxiety is bound to leave a mark. Extroverted kids are suffering, missing the energy of their peers. Introverted kids may seem to enjoy sitting in their homes, away from life’s normal pressures — but they need social interaction just as much.
Camp offers kids the unique opportunity to step back into a simpler time, with no internet connection or mute button needed. A place where a small community can have faith in the human spirit and support from one another without judgment, simply because it’s the right thing to do. Our kids need to be out of our homes, playing with other kids, and camps have proven that it can be done safely, even under the most challenging circumstances. For many kids, camp is a more important social-emotional antidote than the actual vaccine.