One of the most challenging aspects of being a camp director is the ability to be in-tune with a child’s emotions. As one would imagine, when you put seven children in a bunk, eighteen boys on a baseball field, or pile ten boys around a table at a meal, the banter, jokes, and sarcasm is near endless. For some boys, a passing comment about a stain on a shirt, the color of their sneakers, or a mispronounced word can be met with laughter. For other boys, an inadvertent comment can lead to anxiety.
When living together in close quarters, boys might feel rejected or left out at times. However, very often, one’s anxiety is due to misreading a situation, rather than being excluded. One of the most important aspects of going away to summer camp is learning to get along with one another. Teaching our campers the lost art of communication is one of the most important lessons that we can provide during the summer at Camp Takajo.
While words can hurt someone’s feelings and can lead to frustration and rejection, we try to teach the boys that words can also heal and make a child feel part of a community. During the fast-paced days at camp, a child has to navigate through hundreds of social situations. Whether it’s working together during cleanup, passing food at the dinner table, or playing a league sport, a child is forced to assess a situation quickly.
While we take great pride in coaching children on the field, we recognize the greater importance in coaching children socially off the field. If you think back to those moments in your life, when you misread a social situation or wished you hadn’t “put your foot in your mouth,” then you can appreciate the enormous growth and development your son is going though as he navigates these uncharted waters. Most great camp relationships start off slowly and build over time. The sooner we can teach our campers that “conflict cannot survive without their participation,” the faster we will see relationships flourish.