Sunday Snippet: Resiliency at WeHaKee!!
But resiliency is not a pre-wired trait in most of us. We need to experience failure, frustration, disappointment first – and it’s how we handle these challenges that help build the resiliency that will help us succeed later in life.
One of the keys however to developing the ability to be resilient is to have the support of others when we are down and feeling like giving up. A camp experience like WeHaKee Camp for Girls is designed to provide the support, nurturing and guidance when girls are trying new things and perhaps getting discourage at the initial results. With knowledgable and compassionate staff combined with a accepting and positive camp culture, girls are able to explore things they’ve never tried before without the fear of ridicule or rejection.
Michael Unger, Ph.D., recently shared his thoughts in an article in Psychology Today exploring the power of the camp experience in helping children build their resiliency. In Summer Camps Make Kids Resilient, he examines precisely how the summer camps build resiliency in campers. By providing ample opportunities for campers to take healthy risks, the camp experience provides an exceptional growth experience.
“The best camping experiences offer these opportunities for manageable amounts of risk and responsibility, what I term ‘the risk takers advantage’. Camps that pull this off and make kids, especially teens, put away the makeup, stash the iPods, get a little dirty and even a little frustrated while having fun and making new friends, are the kinds of camps that offer children the best of what they need.” Michael Unger, Ph.D.
He offers seven things that kids need (and that good camps like WeHaKee offer) to help them build the coping strategies needed for effective resilience:
1) New relationships, not just with peers, but with trusted adults other than their parents. Just think about how useful a skill like that is: being able to negotiate on your own with an adult for what you need.
2) A powerful identity that makes the child feel confident in front of others. Your child may not be the best on the ropes course, the fastest swimmer, or the next teen idol when he sings, but chances are that a good camp counselor is going to help your child find something to be proud of that he can do well.
3) Camps help children feel in control of their lives, and those experiences of self-efficacy can travel home as easily as a special art project or the pine cone they carry in their backpack. Children who experience themselves as competent will be better problem-solvers in new situations long after their laundry is cleaned and the smell of the campfire forgotten.
4) Camps make sure that all children are treated fairly. The wonderful thing about camps is that every child starts without the baggage they carry from school. They may be a geek or the child with dyslexia. At camp they will both find opportunities to just be kids who are valued for who they are. No camps tolerate bullying (and if they do, you should withdraw your child immediately).
5) At camp kids get what they need to develop physically. Ideally, fresh air, exercise, a balance between routine and unstructured time, and all the good food their bodies need. Not that smores (marshmallows, chocolate and graham cracker treats) don’t have a place at the campfire, but a good camp is also about helping children find healthy lifestyles.
6) Perhaps best of all, camps offer kids a chance to feel like they belong. All those goofy chants and team songs, the sense of common purpose and attachment to the identity that camps promote go a long way to offering children a sense of being rooted.
7) And finally, camps can offer children a better sense of their culture. It might be skit night, or a special camp program that reflects the values of the community that sponsors the camp, or maybe it’s just a chance for children to understand themselves a bit more as they learn about others. Camps give kids both cultural roots and the chance to understand others who have cultures very different than their own.
The American Camp Association has embraced the following slogan Camp Gives Kids A World Of Good and Mr. Unger provides the specifics as to how they precisely accomplish that each summer. And WeHaKee has been doing this for 93 summers for generations of girls and young women. Thanks for joining us today and have a great week everyone!