Battling Anxiety and Celebrating Play

Catch a frog, swing from a zip line, jump off a diving board, create your masterpiece in clay, race to the finish line and come back the next day to experience even more!  Summer camp is all about a sense of community, the importance of making and being a good friend, spirit, and traditions you can count on year after year while the pressures of the academic year are left behind.
Battling anxiety and celebrating play

Anecdote to Anxiety

Why is camp now more important than ever? Childhood anxiety in on the rise. It’s the most common childhood disorder that presents itself in my initial camp intake with new parents.  What role can camp play in decreasing a child’s anxiety and creating better balance in their lives?

Dr.  Shimi Kang, the keynote speaker for the upcoming American Camping Association National Conference and the author of the bestseller The Dolphin Parent: A guide to Raising Healthy, Happy and Self-Motivated Kids, will be speaking on “Anxiety and the Importance of Play.” Dr. Kang believes there are several factors that contribute to childhood stress including overscheduled highly-structured indoor activities.  When not at a scheduled activity, our children are then under enormous academic pressure. We know the scenario all too well!

The Importance of Play, Connection and Downtime

Summer camp to the rescue! Dr. Kang recommends a daily dose of POD – play, others (social connection) and downtime.  She reinforces that nature has a tremendous positive effect on our children’s mental health. Being outside is a mood lifter. Connecting with others in an outdoor play environment defines the camp experience.

All creatures play. Dr. Kang explains that play allows for creativity and adaptability. Connection to others has been reduced to a text.  For many of us, dinner is no longer a time to talk about what is on our mind and connect with family members.  Camp is all about communication – the old fashion way – eye to eye.  Children learn to say what’s on their mind and get ready to listen to the response of a friend or staff member.  Downtime is the third factor Dr. Kiang finds crucial to a child’s well- being.  Camp is about sitting by a campfire and sharing experiences, making a lanyard with a friend or walking to archery and recapping last night’s Yankee game.

Life Lessons

I recently received a note from a young staff member who grew up at Jeff Lake Camp. She was expressing her sadness of not being able to return as a staff member.  She was accepted into the college of her choice but was required to start in the summer.  She spoke about her journey from a young elementary school camper to a junior staff member.  She told me that camp taught her everything she needed to know to be successful in college – how to make a new friend, how to handle whatever comes her way, how to voice her opinion and how to appreciate what was special about her.

Camp can be your partner in raising a child with a balanced lifestyle.

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