What is it about camp that produces “happy campers” and how can we help our children become happier all year long? In my first three “Happy Camper” articles in this series, I point out how physical activity and movement, socializing with friends, and spending more time in nature are three main ingredients for happiness throughout the school year.
Here’s another reason why kids are more likely to find happiness through the camp experience and how to help them become “happy campers” throughout the school year:
Reason #4: Camp is structured freedom.
Camp provides children the freedom to be who they are with just the right amount of structure. At most camps, the schedule of activities is announced and posted first thing each morning and campers get together as a community to hear what they can expect for the flow of the day. They are guided through their schedule by the camp counselors and they know what comes next. Many camps give children a choice as to whether or not to participate in certain activities based on their interests and talents. Research shows that children thrive with regular routines, with flexibility and freedom built in. When they know what to expect, they feel safe and secure and are free to learn about themselves and the world around them.
Practical Wisdom: Incorporate regular routines and rhythms into your child’s day.
Since children thrive on structure and are happier when they know what’s expected of them, try to create a rhythm to their day, not a rigid schedule. For example, a daily rhythm could look like: wake up time, meal times, time for school, play time, homework time, dinner time, bath time, cool down time, bed time. Of course, leave room for flexibility. It’s the consistency of a regular routine that creates an environment that’s stable and predictable for children. If you follow a regular rhythmic routine, your child will be less anxious and feel more emotionally secure, no matter how young or old they are.
Rhythms, routines and rituals are especially beneficial for children and teens who tend to be scattered and have trouble focusing. There’s even an App (actually many Apps) to help parents organize their family’s day.
But make sure you don’t rely on technology to provide structure as a rigidly timed day can add to your family’s stress levels. The idea is to add predictability to the day to lessen the anxious feeling that comes with not knowing what to do next. The safer they feel emotionally, the more independent they will become.
Yours in parenting,