While planning my children’s summer camp schedules from my office cube, I often felt jealous that they got to spend ten weeks attending fun and amazing day camps. I wished I could go to hip hop dance camp, build a robot, or spend a week exploring nature. Compared to the daily grind, a summer filled with new and exciting experiences sounds fantastic.
Your children, however, may not share your enthusiasm.
As we prepare for another summer of dropping our kids off at a different camp each week, working parents worry about how the logistics impact our commute. Campers, however, may have their own worries - anxiety over facing yet another group of new faces. Imagine if you had to start a new job every week: you’d have to figure out what’s expected, how to please your boss, where the restroom is, and which colleagues will be helpful and which ones will step on your toes.
To be successful at summer camp, kids must make new friends, get to know new counselors, figure out the daily rhythm, and try to fit in. For shy kids, this can be excruciating.
If your child is on the shy side, you’ve probably taken this into account and tried to maintain some consistency throughout the summer. You may sign up for eight camps at the same location or make sure they attend with a friend. However, if you want to expose him to a variety of activities like technology, lacrosse and kayaking, this is not always possible.
By joining new groups in new environments, your child will be learning valuable life skills that they will put to use in the workplace: the ability to jump into a new situation, meet people and make friends.
My own experience as a classic introvert is a prime example of how summer camp could have helped.
I hate networking functions. I prefer talking one-on-one over mingling. I find social functions exhausting. But those preferences don’t get you very far in the business world. I had to teach myself, through practice, to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable.
When I worked at a Fortune 500 company, I joined mentoring and volunteer groups, participated in networking events, and tried to be outgoing. I knew that unless I was visible to colleagues and management, my work would go unnoticed.
Things would have been so much easier if I had been forced to practice social networking skills at a younger age. Because my daughters are used to attending a variety of weekly day camps, I feel that they will be one step ahead when faced with similar circumstances as adults. They may not like that first-day-of-school feeling, but they will know how to cope.
It is especially important for shy kids to attend a couple of camps where they don’t know anyone. Without a friend to fall back on, the first two days may be hard, but they will learn how to navigate the situation. Whether you sign your child up for hi-tech robotics or pickleball camp, they are developing social skills that will transfer into powerful networking tactics when they start their careers.