Did your teenager love summer camp as a child? Does he or she need a job but can’t work during the school year because of homework and activities? Maybe you’re ready for your teen to get employment experience but still have some carefree time outdoors away from electronics. Day or sleepaway summer camp is the perfect place for teens to transition to the world of the employed. The paycheck is nice, but being a summer camp counselor has other rewards, too.
The Gift of Responsibility
As much as teens sometimes protest about it, learning responsibility is the gateway to more independence as they grow into adults. Summer camp is an ideal place to build accountability because teens are in charge of other kids or activities, but they are still being supervised. If they work at a sleepaway camp, they must keep their cabin quarters neat and guide younger children to do the same. If they work at a summer day camp, they must show up on time, care for children and lead activities. Working at summer camp is fun, but it also gives teens a glimpse into the adult world with the guidance they still need.
The Opportunity to Be a Role Model
Do you remember a teen you looked up to when you were a kid at summer camp? Maybe he or she helped you perfect your backstroke, taught you how to throw a curve ball, or gave the perfect advice for dealing with disagreements between friends. Teens can connect to kids in ways that adults sometimes can’t, and when teens work at summer camp, they experience the fulfillment of helping younger kids meet their goals and develop new skills.
Refined Relationship Skills
From fun-centered sports competitions between rival teams to getting chores done for inspection, counselors and campers have to work together. Being able to do this teaches teens to hone their communication and interpersonal relationship skills. Some camps even offer staff communication training and morale-building activities before camp starts to increase awareness and create discussion about how to get along with others.
Improved Time Management Skills
Teen counselors have to be on time for meals, the morning meeting at the flag pole, and the activities they lead. They’re also responsible for gently prodding their campers to be punctual. If they are in charge of a lesson, crafts or games, they must plan ahead and make sure they have all the supplies ready and set up on time. These time-management lessons will benefit them as they enter college and the workplace.
Time Away from Technology
Most day camps and sleep-away camps either have a no-device policy or have only short scheduled times with technology. Camp is the perfect place to do a “digital detox” and get back to nature, sports, and face-to-face socialization.
Preparation for Being Away at College
If your teen works at a sleep-away camp, he or she may get a taste of what college life is like. He or she will be responsible for meals, getting up on time or using a coin laundry. These are all valuable lessons that will prepare them for college. Also being away from home for an extended period of time for the first time can take some adjusting to and it can create some homesickness. Teen camp counselors have experienced these feelings and dealt with them before they go to college.
A Chance to Share Talents and Skills
Is your teen an athlete? An artist? A nature enthusiast? Can he or she dance, write or program computers? Summer camp is an ideal place for teens to share strengths. I served as a summer camp counselor when I was in college, and it was the first time I realized I had a knack for teaching kids. It was the gateway to my becoming a teacher, even though I was a journalism student at the time. Camp introduces teens to opportunities that maybe they hadn’t considered. It builds confidence and opens doors to future careers.
Saving on Summer Expenses
One of the advantages of working at an overnight summer camp is that in addition to a paycheck, meals and lodging are usually provided by the camp. Staffers’ work and life all happen at the camp, so gas use is minimal. Teen counselors chaperone trips to amusement parks and museums which are usually covered by the summer camp. Granted, these covered expenses do require responsibility and work, and are not solely carefree outings, but they are positive perks for a summer job.
Working at camp is a great experience to put on a resume when your teen is ready to enter the adult world of work. Summer camp experience is beneficial if your teen wants to teach or coach, but working at camp also builds communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills, all worthy resume additions that may catch a future employer’s interest.
A New Appreciation for You, their Parent
Being a teen counselor is indeed hard work. It involves stamina, patience and responsibility. Oh, and teen counselors must also teach, guide and care for children younger than themselves. It sounds a teeny bit like parenting, right? Teens who are summer camp counselors may begin to recognize how hard parenting is. With that recognition, they may have a new appreciation for all their parents do by the end of the summer.
Being a summer camp counselor is a great start for teens who want to join the world of work. If your teen is interested in beginning the adventure that comes with being a camp counselor, you can find more information at the American Camp Association website or check the STL Parent Summer Camp Guide at stlcamps.com for jobs at St. Louis-area summer camps and sleepaway camps.
Local day camps and sleep-away camps are always looking for summer staff, so don't hesitate to have your high school or college student start contacting them now to secure a summer position.
Janeen Lewis is a freelance journalist and mom to Andrew and Gracie. Some of her fondest memories happened at overnight camp.
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