By Laurie Evans
Every year, thousands of children head off to camp where they develop positive relationships that help them develop socially and emotionally.
The idea of a mentor comes from Greek mythology. When Odysseus, King of Ithaca, went off to the Trojan War, he put his friend, Mentor, in charge of his son and his kingdom.
The word mentor now refers to someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced person.
Mentoring relationships are special and often life-changing.
The camp experience lends itself to mentoring. Counselors and camp staff are more than mere babysitters, they use the basics of positive mentoring relationships to impact their campers.
The key components of camp mentoring include:
- Camp counselors who share and teach through stories and songs.
They are sharing with kids their own camp experiences and helping them become a part of the tradition of camp.
Many camps have songs, games and traditions that are unique to their camp.
This helps kids feel they are a part of something larger than themselves.
- Camp counselors model appropriate behaviors.
Younger children watch and learn from their mentors as they demonstrate fair play, empathy and graceful winning and losing.
- Counselors teach lessons that go beyond the classroom.
Counselors teach how to live and work with others, how to build friendships, and how to be leaders.
- Camp counselors support campers emotionally.
Camp may be the first time children spend the night away from family.
Or they may be experiencing challenges they’ve never faced before.
Counselors offer reassurance and guidance when situations become difficult or overwhelming.
Conquering homesickness or completing a high ropes course with the help of a mentor helps foster a sense of accomplishment
Having a mentor isn’t just a nice addition to childhood development – kids need them.
Kids need nurturing mentors, people outside their family who take an interest in who they are, encourage their successes and help them to learn from their failures.
For many kids these critical relationships are developed at camp.
Tip: When looking for a camp for your child this summer ask the directors or camp staff about the camp counselors.
Who do they hire? How old are the counselors? What kind of experience do they have with kids?