Most parents know that kids benefit tremendously from going to summer camp. But have you ever thought about how sending your kids to camp can benefit you – the parent? Based on my own experiences as a seasoned parent of summer campers, as well as conversations with other parents, I can assure you that camp is great for you too.
Parents are used to always putting their kids first. From the moment they wake up in the morning until the time they go to bed at night, our children are constantly on our minds. What do they need? What can we do for them?
Imagine what happens when they go off to summer camp and the house is suddenly quiet. Here’s what happens: slowly, but surely, you begin to relax in a whole different way. Suddenly, you can hear your own thoughts, and that’ll give you the mental space to reflect on what YOU would like to do – to put yourself first for once.
Use that mental space to do things you’ve been wanting and meaning to do all year. Perhaps there’s a hobby you’d like to pursue. While the kids are at camp, you have the time to take that yoga or painting class, and you get to choose – all by yourself – whether you’d like to do it after work or on the weekend.
Get together with some friends you haven’t seen for a while. If they have kids at camp, too, chances are that they’re available and eager to spend some time with you. Go on a romantic date or two with your partner. The possibilities are endless.
Being able to focus on yourself, your partner, and other people in your life who mean a lot to you is no small matter. As parents, we’re used to being responsible providers and caregivers. However, there’s so much more to a person: we’re also partners and friends. These are important parts of our identities that we need to remember to cultivate. Sending your kids to summer camp may bring out your more playful side that you haven’t shown for a while.
Another great thing about sending your kids to summer camp is that it’ll give them an opportunity to develop and reach important developmental milestones without you being there every step of the way. They’ll become more independent, more mature, and much better at solving problems on their own.
Trust me: Every time my now-teenage son came home from camp, I could tell that he’d grown in leaps and bounds. Seeing how your kids grow also makes you trust them more: you realize that they’re able to develop new skills and take care of themselves even when they’re not under your watchful eye.
Ultimately, summer camp is great preparation for the day that all parents will face: the day when their kids move out and they become empty-nesters. You will miss them – a lot – and they’ll miss you too. But, if you’ve done your job well and you have developed deep and meaningful relationships with them, your kids will always come back home to visit. Just like they will always come back home after a trip to summer camp.
Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences, and Disorders at The City University of New York – Brooklyn College