In the nearly three years of navigating the pandemic, kids have had less social interaction and fewer opportunities to grow their social skills. It’ll take time for youth development industries (and the world) to truly understand the impact this has had on youth, but some short-term impacts are already being seen.
We joined one of The Summer Camp Society’s free debriefs and saw many similar statements from camp leaders:
- “Challenging” was one of the top words for describing working with campers this summer.
- Campers didn’t know how to handle basic emotions/conflicts.
- Directors observed more mental health and emotional needs than in previous summers.
We knew pre-pandemic that camps, after-school programs and other youth programs served important roles in helping kids grow and try new things, and now these programs are even more important. Camps and other programs know this — they see it in their work every day. We’ve highlighted some of why this work matters and put it into words below so you can share it with families, boards, communities and more to help people buy into what you do.
Kids Need Time Away From Their Adults
According to Stress.org, American adults’ stress levels are rising rapidly. Combine that with several studies (like this one) that show adult stress levels can lead to increased child behavior issues and you can see the importance of giving adults and their children time away from each other. Try as we might, it’s extremely difficult for kids not to feel what their caregivers are going through, and providing a break may benefit both.
With that said, though, camps (even day camps!) also reported an increase in homesickness and separation anxiety (both camper from caregiver and caregiver to camper). As difficult as it is for camps and youth programs to navigate homesickness and separation anxiety, we’re now more than ever helping build a skill both groups need to move forward in a healthy way.
Kids Need to Navigate Their Identities
Time out of school and with less social interaction may leave kids unsure of who they are, who they can be or who they want to be. YMCA Camp Kitaki’s Jason Smith’s 2019 Ignite Lincoln talk does a great job of explaining how important this was pre-pandemic, and it’s even more important now. This talk is a great resource to share (or share quotes from) to help communities understand a program's impact.
Youth Programs Provide a Crash Course in Group Dynamics & Relationships
School gives kids the opportunity to build community and relationships over the course of months — youth programs dive right into icebreakers, team builders, trying new things together, working collaboratively and more. School classmates aren’t necessarily expected to get along just because they’re learning together — youth programs focus on making groups into a community. Kids work much more closely together for a condensed period of time in programs. Staff members are uniquely trained to bring everyone together (even through conflict), and that means building skills and relationships along the way.
Kids Need to Slow Down
If you look at a camp or youth program schedule, “slow” may not be the first word that comes to mind. But when you look at all the things coming at kids when they’re at home, camp can be a refreshing change of pace. Camps often have no (or little) screen time, which helps slow down the information overload kids can have. While kids may have a jam-packed schedule for the day, the schedule includes an emphasis on moments, experiences and community.
ACTIVE Network Is Here to Help
At ACTIVE, we help camps and classes across the country stay top of mind among their audiences and grow year after year with seamless, easy-to-use program management software. Once we learn a bit more about your program, we can connect you with a software specialist to find the perfect technology for your unique needs. Whether you need day camp registration software to cut down on processing time or a more focused solution to generate revenue, our experts are here for you.
Get started today to take your camp to the next level — this year and beyond!