Social media. Body image. “Mean girls”. Low self-confidence.
It’s not an easy time to be a girl.
Somewhere in the “middle school” years (ages 10 – 13) girls enter a dangerous age. Their resilience starts to take a beating.
They start to see their failures as their fault, but see successes as out of their control. Statistics have shown they start to blame themselves more yet take credit for their successes less than boys their age. That’s a dangerous combination for self-esteem.
Some girls start to lose their “voice”. As a teacher that specializes in grades 4 through 8, I watch them slowly lose their power… their fire.
Why is this happening to our girls?
There are many challenges that pre-teen girls face – most of them centre around body image issues and social dynamics. They’re spending more time online and less time making meaningful connections.
Unfortunately, we can’t change the world they are living in. But.
We CAN change their attitude. We can help them to be more confident and resilient, so that they can stand up to negative influences when they encounter them. We can give them emotional armour.
“The most important thing a girl can wear is her confidence.” But where does that confidence come from?
Camp is an amazing place to build emotional armour.
1) Camp gets her outside.
It’s proven – kids who spend time in nature (not just outside, but in a true natural environment) are healthier than those who don’t. Particularly for a girl, outdoor activity helps her see her body as a source of strength and promotes healthy risk-taking.
Spending time in nature also provides stress relief and promotes awareness of a world bigger than yourself – which is particularly important at an age where everyday problems, particularly social ones, can begin to seem larger than life.
2) Camp encourages a range of sports activity
There is a strong link between participation in sports (take this term loosely – it includes other regular physical activities such as dance classes) and a girl’s self esteem. Several studies have found a strong link between athletics and body esteem among girls, with girls who played three or more sports per year having the highest self esteem.
Participating in sports also reduces stress, increases physical fitness and strength, and promotes healthy competition – which is a positive outlook that can then spread to other areas of social interaction.
3) Camp is full of strong role models
Strong non-relative role models are extremely important during the pre-teen years, when children begin to create more separation from their parents and are simultaneously responding to more influence from peers. A camp that screens their staff carefully for strength of character will ensure that your daughter will be surrounded by confident, capable young women who will model the values you want her to emulate.
4) Camp encourages new and existing hobbies
Hobbies help girls develop a sense of belonging and self-worth by providing areas of increasing growth, accomplishment, and expertise, which in turn nurture their confidence & identity. Hobbies also provide another way to connect to new friends on a non-superficial level.
When your daughter has a safe environment (ie: camp) in which to try out a large variety of activities, she can develop more skill in things that interest her (like a specific sport, cooking, outdoor survival, or drama), as well as try out new things she may have never seen before (like slackline, corcl boats, or puppetry). Who knows what new life-long passion could be discovered at camp?
5) Camp expands your daughter’s social network
Especially when classmates tend to be the same from year to year, it’s easy to rely on the same small circle of friendships – and this enhances the sting a girl feels when acts of social aggression occur.
MKDC draws from a much larger population of kids, meaning your daughter can form new friendships with others from a range of backgrounds – not only different schools, but sometimes even different countries as well! Especially at this age, not having all your social eggs in one basket is an excellent safeguard against frenemies.
6) Camp explicitly teaches healthy social interaction.
One of the things that makes a camp experience special is the way that we actively cultivate family-like dynamics within each cabin group as well as through camp as a whole. With a cabin leader who acts like more of a coach and a big sister than a parent, girls are guided through their everyday interactions in a way that simply doesn’t occur in other settings. By having established group norms (such as the “no put down” rule) and time on the schedule set aside for sharing and discussion, girls learn to express their feelings, work out differences, and build tolerance in a more healthy, positive way.
Studies are showing a correlation between social media use and low self-esteem. We may not be able to remove social media from your daughter’s world… but by providing a better use of her time and building up her emotional armour, camp can help you minimize the damage.