For many girls, the role of camp certainly adapts to the world’s changes in some ways, but at its core remains unchanged from my simpler days riding the school bus to day camp in rural Connecticut. Campers (and counselors) are coming to camp with a new and different set of experiences based on the way they are forced to try and seamlessly juggle online and in-person experiences. Yet some of the crucial takeaways from camp still boil down to the three Cs: community, cause, and confidence.
For many girls, establishing multiple clusters of community can be key to their social and emotional wellness. I coined the term “community clusters” in my book, “The Myth of the Perfect Girl,” to signify the emotional importance of having different groups of friends — perhaps some friends or colleagues from work; others from school, church, or synagogue; and some from an exercise group or activity — that make up each person’s own greater community. One of the greatest gifts that camp offers is helping young girls create and maintain multiple community clusters. Even if things are not going well with friends from school or on a sports team, girls realize they always have a community of supporters at camp. This inherent sense of belonging acts as a booster and a relaxant that allows girls to focus on finding their own cause and building their long-term confidence.
Much of girls’ anxiety stems from the culture of comparison, where everything (online and IRL) is subject to nonstop assessment. In the relative quiet of camp (and by “quiet” I am referring to the absence of input from parents, teachers, and media sources), girls often have a chance to find their own cause and reflect on what brings them happiness and personal fulfillment. Finding a sense of purpose enables girls to develop their own framework for success, rather than looking at what others are doing as a source of comparison and competition.
Camp works to build the personal confidence of girls who may be facing increasing stress over not measuring up to some external semblance of perfection, as camp allows them to take healthy risks, be supported in an inclusive environment, redefine failure, and build off success. Girls who are able to be silly, rumble and tumble, capture the flag, and sing at the top of their lungs — those are the ones who can forget the stressors beyond the camp walls, or at least put them aside temporarily. And hopefully, with a bit more attention to community, causes, and confidence, this next generation of girls will use their camp experiences to create their own personal pathways to success. Even though camp only lasts a few weeks or months of the year, the ripple effects are endless.
Ana Homayoun is a teen and millennial expert who draws on her camp experiences, among others, to help individuals, schools and corporations with organization, personal productivity and overall wellness. She can be reached through her website at anahomayoun.com.
Reprinted by permission of the American Camp Association. ©2018, American Camping Association, Inc. The American Camp Association® ACA is a national organization with more than 11,000 individual members and nearly 3,000 member camps. ACA is committed to collaborating with those who believe in quality camp and outdoor experiences for children, youth and adults. For more information, visit ACAcamps.org.