Cabin Requests May 29, 2018 Cabin placements are definitely on all of our minds as camp draws ever closer! We thought that it is a great topic to start our blog posts with this summer…and have found a great article that has some great points we wanted to share. Happy reading! With spring in full gear… so are thoughts about preparation for summer camp. And with that, calls are often made to request which group or cabin our children will be part of this summer. It is our natural instinct as parents to ensure that our kids are comfortable, with their besties, and part of the “group’. Though well intentioned, are we doing our kids a favour or a disservice? As a mother of 3 and a Camp Director for over 25 years, I truly understand the origin of the cabin request. We want to secure a spot where we think our kids will be happiest and not leave it to what we think is “chance” (although, believe me it is not). But, after many years of doing group placements for thousands of campers … my advice … Whether it is camp, an extracurricular activity or a school trip, Mix it Up! As a mom, I learned my lesson the hard way. With our oldest child we thought that we were doing what was best for her by always requesting the same group of kids for her to be with, whether it be at school, at camp, or religious school and also chose after school programs around the group. But when the girls were in grade 5, despite what we thought was best, problems began. When our daughter tried to reach out to those outside this core group, she was ultimately ostracized by this same group. This incident, in combination with other bullying behaviour, forced her to reinvent both herself and her social circles. From this painful time in our lives, she (and we as her parents) learned the importance of branching out and making different sets of friends in multiple areas of her life. As a result, her friendships became much more diverse as did her interests . This lifelong learnable, although difficult at the time, helped to shape our daughter into the well-rounded, self-confident, and resourceful young woman that she is today. She has many circles of friends , makes sure to nurture these relationships and is super aware to ensure that everyone feels included. So, think twice about the “Cabin Request”. Why? Multiple friend groups for our kids is a good thing! The more the merrier. Kids can build connections and gain acceptance from different groups, putting less social pressure on any one friend or group. I have found that going to school, camp and dance or hockey with the same group of kids can often lead to trouble if all of a sudden there is a falling out. Often, a child may be left feeling excluded and anxious if one member of that friend group makes friends faster and then he/she doesn’t have them to rely on for companionship. Making friends is a lifelong skill. As adults, we all know that, so lets make sure our kids know how. This “muscle” needs work. This will help them in high school, university, in the workplace or should they choose to relocate one day. Camp is the perfect place to start. Some kids (and adults) make friends faster than others, that is o.k. Sometimes a fresh start allows kids to reinvent themselves or get out of a friendship dynamic that might not be working so well. When kids branch out they just might find something new. A new sport, a new hobby or passion, that is often only found by moving out of our comfort zones. Maybe a new friend will introduce them to something they never thought about trying? They get a chance to explore things they might like but their group wasn’t so into … who knows, you might have a Kyle Lowry in the making? Or the lead in the camp play? Check our own motive. It might be our thing not theirs. As a parent, it is important to consider the following, are we anxious about our kids not being with the same kids? Is this a situation we couldn’t handle when we were growing up? Are we projecting our own fears and wishes on our children? Are we influencing our children’s perspective on meeting new people or the safety in sticking with the group? As a Camp Director and a parent, I can tell you, this is a very normal thing to do, but we do need to ask ourselves the tough questions to better understand our motives. The two-way request is most common now. So what does that mean? It means that your request alone does not seal the deal. Often a program will only accept the grouping request if it is made by both families, so an inquiry to a family may need to be made to make sure it is mutual. These inquiries are necessary because, truthfully, sometimes kids need “friendship breaks”. If they spend all their time together during the school year perhaps one parent (and child) feels that is enough. Summer camp is a good time to expand. Space is good and it is healthy, and often makes kids appreciate their friends more when they are together. Two-way requests can result in awkward conversations between parents and between parents and camp directors, but it is important to respect these breaks when needed. Know that we truly have your child’s best interest at heart – I promise. As a Camp Director I have years and years of experience in putting together cabins. I have observed cabin social dynamics change from year to year, witnessed new friendships bloom, and sometimes old friendships fade. I always want to make the best possible choice for your kids. So, take the time to listen to our perspective, have a conversation, we want to do what is right for your child. The best decisions are made as a team. You know your kids best and we want to hear about it. Give us the full picture, the more information the better … and we have the experience to match. Let’s work together. And maybe we’ll teach our kids to be less exclusive, show them that walking into a room or a cabin full of new kids is an opportunity. An opportunity to add new friends to the group. Sari Grossinger is the Co-Owner and Director of Camp Robin Hood, Toronto’s most trusted outdoor day camp. Sari has been a practicing paediatric Occupational Therapist for over 25 years and plays a key role in meeting the needs of campers and their families.