Nurturing Friendships at Camp


Summer camp is a unique experience in a child’s life, offering a wealth of chances for personal growth, adventure, and, perhaps most importantly, forming new friendships. However, amidst the excitement, there can also be some apprehension, particularly when it comes to meeting new people. Children may feel a blend of excitement and nervousness about making friends in a new environment, while parents may grapple with concerns about the right way to guide their child through the associated challenges. 


In this short blog, we will offer a few tips for how kids can navigate the ins and outs of making friends at camp and how parents can help them along the way.

Tips for kids

  1. Be Open and Approachable: Encourage your child to approach camp with an open mind and a friendly demeanor. Remind them that nearly everyone is in the same boat – surrounded mostly by new people, but looking to make friends and have a good time. Encourage them to be friendly and open with campers who initiate interactions with them.
  2. Participate Actively: Encourage your child to participate in camp activities and group games. Shared experiences often pave the way for friendships to blossom. Active involvement increases the likelihood of breaking the ice with fellow campers or getting so wrapped up in an activity that shyness is totally forgotten.
  3. Be Yourself: Encourage your child to embrace their unique qualities and interests. Authenticity is magnetic and can attract friends who appreciate them for who they are. Remind them that it’s okay to be nervous or shy initially, but encourage them to stay true to themselves and not to pretend to be someone they’re not.
  4. Initiate Conversations: Encourage your child to take the initiative in starting conversations with their peers. Simple questions like “What are you making?” or “Where are you from?” can serve as icebreakers. Encourage them to listen actively and show genuine interest in what others have to say.
  5. Include Others: Encourage your child to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone they meet. Encourage them to look out for kids who may be sitting alone or seem shy and invite them to join in activities. Acts of kindness can go a long way in forging connections and making everyone feel included.

Others ways to help from home

  1. Pre-Camp Preparation: Before camp begins, talk to your child about their feelings and expectations regarding making new friends. Validate any concerns they may have and offer reassurance. Share your own experiences of making friends and highlight the positive aspects of meeting new people.
  2. Foster Independence: Encourage your child to take ownership of their social experiences at camp. While it’s natural to want to check in and ensure they’re doing okay, resist the urge to intervene too much.
  3. Practice Social Skills: It may seem silly, but this can really help your extra shy child! Role-play social scenarios with them to help them feel more confident in initiating conversations and making connections. Practice active listening, empathy, and problem-solving skills to equip them with the tools they need to navigate social interactions successfully.
  4. Be Open to New Friends all Week:  Be sure your child understands that the first campers they meet may not be the ones they end up getting along with best. And even if they are, encourage your child to remain open to forming new connections and to understand that it’s natural for their friends to spend time with other campers as well.
  5. Manage Expectations: Remind your child that building friendships takes time and that it’s normal to feel a bit awkward or uncertain at first. Encourage them to focus on enjoying themselves and being open to new experiences rather than putting pressure on themselves to make instant friends.
  6. Communicate with Camp Staff: Ask them who your child has been getting along with. Friendships can be reinforced by simply getting your child to talk to you about their new friends at home. On top of that, you can help maintain the friendship after camp by setting up playdates!
  7. Stay Positive and Supportive: Maintain an upbeat and supportive attitude when discussing your child’s camp experience. Celebrate their successes, whether big or small, and offer encouragement if they encounter setbacks.

Handling difficult situations

Of course, like anyone in a new social setting, campers may experience challenging or negative interactions with their peers. Navigating these challenges can sometimes be daunting for children. But, by empowering children with effective coping mechanisms and fostering open communication, they can navigate these challenges with resilience and confidence.
  1. Being the Only New Camper in a Group: It’s unlikely, but possible, for a child to be one of the few newcomers in a group of campers who mostly know each other. In such situations, encourage your child to embrace their uniqueness. Reiterate that most campers want to make new friends, so even campers who have already formed friendships are likely really open to building more. They should also seek out other new campers who may be in a similar position, as they may find solidarity in navigating the experience of being new together.
  2. Feeling Left Out: If your child feels left out or excluded by their peers, it’s essential to validate their feelings and offer support. Encourage them to communicate their feelings assertively but respectfully, expressing their desire to be included in activities and conversations. Encourage them to seek out other campers who share similar interests or hobbies. Ask the camp staff if there are children they think your child would get along with, and ask them for their help in fostering those relationships.
  3. Confronting Bullying: Bullying can be a distressing experience for any child, and it’s essential to address it promptly and effectively. Encourage your child to confide in a trusted adult, such as a camp counselor or staff member, if they experience bullying or witness it happening to others. Teach them strategies for assertive communication and boundary-setting, such as saying “stop” firmly and walking away from the situation. Reinforce the importance of empathy and kindness and encourage your child to stand up for themselves and others in a respectful manner.

As kids set off on their camp adventure, it’s crucial for them to approach it with confidence and genuine excitement. Helping them recognize their own strengths in social situations can really boost their self-esteem. This mindset not only gets them ready for the fun activities ahead but also helps them build meaningful friendships along the way.

Parents play a key role in nurturing this mindset by offering steady guidance, constant encouragement, and being there for their child throughout their camp journey. 

Both campers and parents should know that the camp staff is there to support them too. Whether it’s sorting out any problems that come up or making sure every camper feels included, the staff’s dedication ensures that everyone feels valued during their time at camp.

Summer is a magical time for children, and together, we can ensure that the magic is maximized!

Enroll now!