Summer activities in 2021 will feel a little different than they did in 2020. After a successful summer camp season in 2020 at Cooper Fitness Center, our goal is to meet the campers where they are to grow emotionally and socially this summer. While times feel a little less “unprecedented” approaching 2021 camp, camp is also a valuable opportunity to foster resilience in our children—an important life skill that will serve them well into adulthood.
Resilience was a key topic discussed at the American Camp Association virtual conference this year. Like a rubber band returning to position after being stretched, resilient kids bounce back from adversity. But neither a rubber band nor a child returns the same; instead, they are changed by different stressors and challenges. In her discussion “The Joy and Grief of Returning to Camp,” resiliency expert and medical doctor Deborah Gilboa, MD, noted a key factor of resiliency involves “knowing you can experience difficult things and still experience positive things as well.” The global pandemic showed us the importance of helping kids develop resiliency and the ability to use “20/20 vision” to shape who they are in 2021 and beyond.
The camp environment fosters resiliency by challenging campers to become the best version of themselves while offering a safe space in which to thrive.
Research on resiliency in children highlights three key points:
- Sense of mastery
- Sense of relatedness
- Emotional reactivity
Sense of Mastery
An important characteristic of mastery is self-efficacy—believing you can complete a challenge presented to you. School psychologist Tommy Reynolds, EdS, found challenges at summer camp hallmarks of the summer camp experience. At Cooper Fit & Fun Day Camp, campers are challenged in the sports they practice and the games they play. They are also challenged to make new friends, lead their team, try something new, include others, be a team player, persevere, and more. These challenges are presented to them along with the tools and support to face these challenges. When campers succeed with the support of the camp environment, they are better able to face future situations which present these same challenges in the “real world.”
Sense of Relatedness
Relatedness includes trust, support, and tolerance. Another speaker at the ACA conference, Matthew Cook, stated that camp is a fun byproduct of perceived safety and a playful environment. Safety, both physical and emotional, is key to a child’s camp experience. A child who feels safe is more willing to stretch outside of their comfort zone with the knowledge they will be cared for and supported. At Cooper, our health protocols and safety measures, as well as the comfort and convenience of having a medical staff of renowned Cooper Clinic onsite, foster the physical safety needed for both campers and their families. Our camp counselors develop emotional safety with their campers by offering support, growth mindset, and acceptance of all.
Challenging situations can cause one to react with amplified emotion. We have all said things we didn’t mean to when we were hungry, tired, hot, or having too much fun to go back home. Camp gives children an opportunity to experience these emotions and learn how they react in these situations. Campers will practice handling emotions constructively and grow from watching and learning from other campers as well as facing similar situations.
Learning the skill of resiliency will set your kids up for success well beyond the week of summer camp. Register for Cooper Camps at Cooper Fitness Center, beginning June 7 for ages 5-13. Limited summer camp spots are still available for kids (ages 5-7) and youth (ages 8-13) camp, so reserve your camper’s spot today!
Cooper Fitness Center has offered youth programs for more than 25 years and features a variety of year-round fitness programs, youth events, and sports training for kids, including boxing, martial arts, swimming, tennis, soccer, summer camp, and other seasonal offerings. Learn more and register at cooperyouth.com/Dallas.
Riley Owles, MS, is the Camps and Youth Programs Manager at Cooper Fitness Center. Riley studied Health and Exercise Science at the University of Oklahoma and plays an integral role in Cooper Youth Programs.