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Happy Campers

Apr 14 | What Different Can Do

Here’s a challenging statement that I’m finding more and more to be true:

If what we truly want is for our children to be happy, we as parents need to stop focusing on their happiness.

Seems counterintuitive, right? The trouble is that happiness is not a destination to be arrived at like an address. Rather, happiness ensues, happiness arises from a life that has the correct ingredients in the right proportions for a person (child or adult… and every one of us in-between) to experience the full range of human emotions, and to find ourselves in a real and dynamic relationship to the people and the physical world around us. These relationships can be both comforting and uncomfortable, challenging and fulfilling… and that’s perfectly natural. It’s actually really healthy and turning out to be exactly what we need.

In his newly released book, The Anxious Generation, Dr. Jonathan Haidt explores what he calls the “rewiring of childhood” and how it has caused an “epidemic of mental illness” in our children. Like Dr. Michael Thompson’s great book, Homesick and Happy there is a eye-opening exploration of the negative effects of technology, and our children’s over-use and over-reliance on it. There’s also a helpful serving of countermeasures that we can take that will actually help our children live their best life and help them reach their innate potential. In a later chapter, Dr. Haidt offers this advice to parents:

Find a sleepaway camp with no devices and no safetyism. Many summer camps offer children and adolescents the chance to be out in nature and away from their devices and the internet for a month or two. Under those conditions, young people attend fully to each other, forming friendships and engaging in slightly risky and exciting outdoor activities that may bond them together tightly. Avoid camps that are essentially summer school, with academic work and internet access, or camps that do not provide children with any communal responsibilities. Try to find a camp that embraces the values of independence and responsibility. If possible, send your child there every summer, from third or fourth grade through eighth or ninth grade–or all the way through high school if they want to transition from camper to counselor. Bonus points for any camp that promises not to post pictures every day on its website. Summer camp is a great opportunity for parents and children to get out of the habit of constant contact and, especially for parents, constant reassurance that their kids are okay.

Camp is good for kids because putting technology away and playing, exploring, risking, and learning are good for us all. No big surprises there. Camp presents children with a technology-free week of connection, belonging, and joyful play. At Camp Southern Ground, we know each child has unique gifts that need to be recognized and nurtured to have them grow to their fullest potential. We care about this not only because it makes our camp a wonderful place to be, but because we know that the kindness and empathy that we practice at Camp will make all the difference in each child’s life beyond our gates. As will all of the values that we practice; inclusion, resilience, curiosity, citizenship, adaptability, and self-responsibility.

Help us get the word out about Camp Southern Ground. Share this and all of our What Different Can Do messages with your friends and family, and together we will strengthen the and enrich our communities and our country, one child at a time. We still have a few spots open and would love to see your child have an amazing experience this summer. 

Matty Cook
Camp Director
Camp Southern Ground