Sixteen-year-old Rebecca Hatton will leave her Edmond home this summer to spend two weeks at Kanakuk Kamps in Lampe, Missouri.
As countless Oklahoma City kids prepare to pack up and head to summer camp, Rebecca reminds kids to keep an open mind and prepare to make new friends.
“My camp friends are my best friends,” she said. “At camp, I feel the safest to be honest and open about the things I’m going through and how my year has really been. It’s a deeper level of friendships than what I have at school.”
Rebecca’s mom, Kristen Hatton, has been sending her daughter away to camp since she was just 9 years old. While it wasn’t easy at first to watch her daughter go experience things without her, she said the benefits have been worth it. Kristen and Rebecca answered some questions for MetroFamily readers to help their kids get the most out of the summer camp experience.
MetroFamily: How did it feel to send your daughter away to camp for the first time?
Kristen: You know, I wasn’t nervous only because I went to camp for five weeks every summer as a kid. I really knew the wonderful benefits of going to camp. I missed her, of course, but the benefits outweighed that and I knew the earlier I started sending her the better. It helps to remind yourself that you’ll miss them more than they’ll miss you.
MetroFamily: How do you pick the right camp for your child?
Kristen: There are different things for everyone to consider. Do you want your kid to learn a new activity or skill? Go to a co-ed camp or an all girl or all boy camp? Everyone has to think about proximity and cost. But besides that, I would encourage parents to think about sending their kids to a camp where they won’t already know a lot of the people. Rebecca has not ever gone to camp with people from her hometown and that’s allowed her to make friends from all different parts of the country. When you send your kids off with people they don’t know, they have better opportunities to make new friends.
MetroFamily: What changes have you seen in your kids due to their camp experiences?
Kristen: I see a lot of positive changes. They have stronger friendships and more accountability that stays with them all year. I feel like it’s helped all three of my kids (she also has two sons, ages 11 and 13) grow and mature in ways they might still get out of life otherwise but camp has given them a lot more of it at an earlier age. They’ve grown to be adventurous and independent through camp.
Despite fears and apprehension, many parents will send their kids away to summer camp this year. In fact, the American Camp Association estimates more than 11 million people will go to camp this summer.
The association also reports of the more than 12,000 camps available in the U.S., about 47 percent of them are overnight camps. We asked our Facebook fans their thoughts on how old kids should be before attending sleepaway camp. Here are a few of their responses:
Megan C.: My daughter is going to marine biology camp this summer in California and she’s 10.
Geoff E.: It depends on the kid and the camp. My kids started going to Kanakuk for a month each summer at age 8. My wife did the same when she was a kid so we felt safe sending our kids there.
Jenifer B.: 12, unless accompanied by a parent.
Leesa C.: It is hard to guess. My oldest kids are 8, and I wouldn’t send them now. We are comfortable with day camps at this point.
Tara N.: I was 11 and it was really, really hard on me. It took me four of the six days to stop feeling horribly homesick. (Oodles of sleepovers before that though.) Probably it depends on the kid!