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Much has been written already about HBO’s “Girls,” the “Sex and the City” for the next generation. The New York Times even had an article in The Science Times about the show and how the strong female friendships on “Girls” mirror those found in the animal kingdom. It seems that baboons and twenty-something Brooklynites both benefit from female bonding.

This, of course, led me to think about all-girls camps. There is no right decision when deciding what type of camp to send your children to. Some children and/or parents want a co-ed camp because they want their children to spend time with their siblings, because they want their children exposed to and comfortable around the other gender, or because they themselves have fond memories of a co-ed camp experience. Still others choose co-ed camps because they believe that teens are more likely to attend camp longer if there are members of the opposite sex there. All of these are valid and great reasons to send children to a co-ed camp.

Other parents choose single-sex camps. There is something different about the bonding that happens in a single-sex camp. Girls are very different when there are no boys around. Even boys are different without girls to impress. With the plethora of technology available to kids today, it is almost impossible to insulate them from the pressures of dating and sex, at younger and younger ages. A single-sex camp can minimize the pressures, at least for a few weeks.

The creator of “Girls” has stated that the most important relationship in the show is really the friendship of the “girls” themselves. In the animal kingdom, in the five boroughs of New York, and at summer camp, this is what is most important.

Raising Kind Children

Often times I think parents think they have to teach their children all skills. But they forget the most natural way kids learn positive (and negative) behaviors is just by being around role models; the most important being their parents.

This Huffington Post article about Raising Kind Daughters really resonates with me. I love the story of supportive friendship, mothers of friends looking out for their child’s friends, peers wanting and offering help, and more. I can recall similar stories of my own kids growing up. And now their own experiences evaluating people’s kindness (and lack of). Making personal and professional choices because of people’s kindness levels.

I also believe that one of the best environments in which to experience and learn more about kindness is in camp. With mentors and adults around to help shape their development. Calling attention to those who do good deeds, and instructing those who do the opposite to improve their behaviors. I often counsel parents to ask about such scenarios when interviewing directors. Situations like these should come to mind rather quickly, if a director is good and in touch with their staff and campers.

Let’s all try to be more mindful how we treat and speak to others, be it in front of our kids, their teachers, professionals, restaurant staff, or anyone in a service environment or position. With a little more kindness in the world, we might all have a positive impact on reducing negative, harmful behaviors. And people being more happy.

Summer Camp First Letters Home

It’s that time of year. We get calls from anxious parents whose children (or teens) are sharing some homesickness or separation challenges. We console and normalize. The same holds true for campers’ first letters.

We love when parents share their first camper letters. I still cherish mine. Happiness, some sadness, new friends, counselor stories, the food is great, the food ‘stinks’, I ‘need this’, I ‘want this’, please send me…..

Please do NOT read into these (i.e. do not over analyze). Letters are written in moments of intense feelings. And those feelings go away typically as soon as the next activity occurs. Call the camp IF a pattern develops; not at the first letter. Senior staff will look into this; they want campers to succeed and be happy.

Save these letters! Create a special folder/container that withstands time. You will want to read these again and again. And your kids will get a kick out of them even when they return at the end of this summer. Don’t be surprised it they say something like, ‘oh yeah, I remember it was raining that day, and I was bored.’ Or, ‘I don’t remember writing that.’ You think, if only I knew then!

Share your stories with others; you will see you and your thoughts are not alone.

Now put the letters away, enough with the social media. Go connect with others and enjoy this long holiday weekend – in person.

Camp Visiting Day

When I look at the calendar and see it’s already the 3rd week of July, I can’t help but think about camps around the country preparing for visiting day weekends. The physical landscapes of camps are being groomed with lawn mowers, fresh mulch and last minute paint touch ups. Campers and counselors spend extra time cleaning up their bunks. Activity departments are making sure they can accommodate for any request a parent may have, like taking out kayaks out on the lake, or going out to watch their son or daughter waterski. It’s an exciting day for directors, staff and campers to show off their magnificent camps.

The Kentucky Derby is advertised as, “The Most Exciting Two Minutes of Sports;” and you could compare this to the moment when parents arrive at camp. Campers wait anxiously at their designated areas, whether it be at their first period activity or by their bunk. If siblings are at camp together, they’d typically wait together and debate who got to hug their mom or dad first. Parents are held in the allocated parking lots and areas of camp, checking their cell/smart phones and watches in hopes time moves quickly to 9:30am, the popular/official start to Visiting Day. So when the clock finally strikes 9:30am and the daily bugle announces itself on the sound system across campgrounds, it’s like the horses are released from the starting gates at the derby. Mothers are excitedly looking out to find the first glimpse of her children; fathers are following behind carrying shopping bags of goodies (some essential, others considered must favorites from home to bring to camp).

But when the moment comes when parents finally find their son or daughter, it’s like the world has stopped and life is utopia. The visiting day jitters, stress, and anxiety melt away when parents embrace in their son or daughter’s hugs. There is something so special, so sweet, about that very moment finding each other after living apart for several weeks. It’s magical.

Looking back (and into the future), memories last forever of Visiting Day. Making the most of the time together; listening, talking or not. Just being together and seeing your child’s summer world, is what matters.

We wish all of our camp families a happy and safe Visiting Day weekend! Create and repeat traditions, and take lots of pictures and videos!