Summer Camp and Mental Health June 23, 2019 Camp can be more than a place to have fun. Smart parents know that overnight summer camp can help their child’s mental health. Summer camp can be an integral part of a child’s development in many different aspects, including their mental health. Camp helps develop life skills, character and can be a respite from the stress and pressure of home/school life. In the last couple of years we have noticed a change in many of our campers. They are more anxious, less tolerant and they lack many coping skills. Therefore, Marimeta has correspondingly spent more time in promoting and developing social skills and coping tools to help combat this new trend. In a Psychology Today article, 10 Reason Teens Have So Much Anxiety Today, author Amy Morin states, “I agree that anxiety is a widespread issue among adolescents.” Amy speaks to this issue; see full article here. Below is our summary of that article: 1. Technology can offer an unhealthy withdrawal. Access to digital devices gives them a way to escape uncomfortable situations: boredom, loneliness, sadness or being sent to their room when they are in trouble. So then, when you avoid discomfort, you don’t develop the coping abilities needed to handle everyday challenges. 2. Happiness at all cost. Parents believe it is their job to make their kids happy. Therefore, children believe if they are not happy something must be wrong. They don’t understand it is ok and healthy to feel melancholy, disappointed, defeated and yes even irate. 3. Giving undue praise. Does not build self-esteem like we think. It actually can create overachievers and perfectionists that struggle to live up to the hype. The child’s fear of failure and that they could disappoint their parents can cause debilitating anxiety. 4. Parents are buying into the rat race Parents are becoming their child’s personal assistants. Hiring SAT tutors, sports coaches and whatever else they feel will give their child a leg up. In addition, parents are making it their job to build their child’s resume. 5. Children are not learning emotional finesse 60 % of college freshman feel emotionally unprepared for college. Young adults feel vulnerable when it comes to time management and coping with everyday stresses. 6. Parents should be guiding their children. Parents believe their role should be protector and want their children to be exposed to as few emotional and physical scars as possible. In addition, more parents have become overprotective and the children rarely get the chance to practice dealing with the issues on their own. Ergo, kids feel they are too weak to grapple with the actuality of life. 7. Parents struggle knowing the right way to help their children face their fears. We push our kids too hard on one hand or we don’t push them at all. Exposure is a good way to quell fear. This exposure needs to be done gently, with guidance, so that they can gain confidence when facing their fears. 8. Guilt and fear parenting. Parents are changing their parenting style due to their own fear and guilt. Anxiety is guiding their own ideals about parenting. We are teaching our kids that difficult emotions are unacceptable. 9. Free play is the rarity. Unstructured play develops skills like conflict resolution. To sum up, playing alone teaches children to be ok with their thoughts and content with themselves. 10. Kids rule the family. Children should not dictate to us how to parent them. Furthermore, giving children what they want all the time is not good for them. Why summer camp may help strengthen your childs mental help- Camp Marimeta tries hard to keep technology out of camp. We ask parents to keep their campers “screens” at home, so that the campers will interact with each other rather than having their noses in a screen. In addition to dealing with missing home, we also talk to campers about understanding that it is ok to feel frustrated or have self-doubt. Sometimes feeling sad or unhappy or both is very normal. When our campers follow the rules and generally deserve praise, they receive it. A saying that is repeated every five year night states: “We can’t all be captains, we got to be crew. There’s something for all of us here.” Crew is what makes the boat move forward. Good captains take credit, great captains honor their crew for all they do. Marimeta holds all campers accountable for their own space in each cabin. We also teach them to be responsibile beyond their own area. All campers learn to understand what is good for one is good for the group. Marimeta works on teaching time management and coping skills daily. In addition to our counsleors teaching accitvities, our counselors on a daily basis work on guiding your children to explore their fears. Guidance without the fear or guilt of parenthood can make the world of difference. Many of our campers say college is such an easy transition for them because they already know so many more life skills than their peers because of camp. As hard as it is to watch our campers struggle with unscheduled free time, the rewards of watching them solve a problem or an issue on their own is so worth it. Seeing campers use their imagination as they are playing in the water is incredible. The other day some of our young campers decided they were mermaids and their tales were the swim noodles. Observing the campers build a vessel for their egg in the egg drop challenge is always exciting and interesting. In conclusion, summer camps can provide a reprieve from the pressures from home and school life. The time away from social media and screens, though hard, is exactly what these growing brains need. Camps provide a safe and challenging environment that lets your child explore their feelings, even the sad ones. Summer camp can serve as a place for your child to strengthen their mental health.