As the summer gets closer, you’ll probably find yourself with a checklist of things your child will need for camp. You’ll think about sunblock, and swimsuits, and sneakers that give the right kind of stability for a long day outside. But something you might not stop to think about is the social skills your child will need in order to have a great experience this summer.
Social skills is a term used to describe our ability to navigate social situations, make friends and maintain relationships. While they are not something most parents think about, it is easy to see why these skills are one of the most important factors in a child having a great camp experience. Your child will spend the whole day with other kids, and will interact with counselors and activity specialists too. If he doesn’t have the social skills to effectively navigate these social situations, the summer will likely be pretty rocky.
That’s why it’s a good idea to spend some time thinking honestly about the social areas your child struggles with. Does he have a hard time starting conversations or keeping them going? Does she always have to have things her way, or dominate conversations? Does he get upset too easily, or struggle with a change of plans?
While there are lots of social skills that help us to make and keep friends in our daily lives, some of these skills are especially important for making friends in a camp environment. Here are four I consider to be essential to a successful summer. Take a look:
1. Flexibility. Most camps are not like school. For a very rigid child that can be upsetting. Your child may be used to things operating a certain way, and always going according to plan. At summer camp, he will have to embrace the possibility of unexpected changes. A rainy day, for example, can be cause for a total change in the day’s activities. There are also rules that may be second nature to your child like hand-raising, or walking in lines, that may not exist at camp. Your child should expect a more laid back atmosphere, and be ready to go with the flow. Otherwise, camp might be a source of frustration, when it’s meant to be a stress-free place to have a good time.
2. Emotional Regulation. Camp is a place where your child will be exposed to a variety of activities and people. Some of the activities will be ones he will excel at, while some will probably be more difficult. Some people will be easy for him to connect with, while others will not be people he would normally choose as friends. Regardless of who is in the group, and what they’re doing each day, your child will need to be able to keep emotions like anger, disappointment, and jealousy in check. Overreacting to a situation can hurt him socially, and may make others more hesitant to be his friend.
3. Compromise. In the case of serious conflicts, the camp’s staff should be ready to step in and guide campers to a solution. But when it comes to day-to-day disagreement and annoyances, campers need to be able to compromise. A child’s willingness to share, take turns, and talk through a situation will affect his friendships with other campers. A child that is always having tantrums, getting into fights, or finding himself at the center of all the drama won’t have as good a social experience as one who learns to compromise.
4. Ability to maintain conversations. Most camps have some down time to give kids a chance to just talk and be social. These times can help strengthen and solidify the bonds the children will carry with them through the rest of the daily activities. While your child doesn’t have to be the most outgoing kid in the group, it’s important for him to be able to carry on a conversation when others talk to him. The other children will notice if he’s not paying attention, constantly interrupting them, or repeating himself throughout the entire conversation. Any of those habits could make them less willing to include him in the future, and can make it much harder for him to make friends in the group.
If your child struggles in any of these areas then he, or she, child will likely need some help developing these skills in order to enjoy camp.
The good news is that there are plenty of great resources, such as a good social skills program, that can help child develop the skills he will need to have a great experience at camp. If you have any questions, or are looking for some strategies to help your child improve his social skills, feel free to reach out to us at 914.488.5282.
I know that it can be a bit overwhelming to think about sending your child to camp if you have concerns about his social skills, but there are plenty of ways to help your child, and by getting started now, you can help make this summer one that your child will truly enjoy.