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Too Old For Summer Camp

How To Make Summer Camp Appealing For Older Kids

A survey conducted on behalf of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids New York, an anti-crime organization, found that unsupervised teens were five times as likely to take drugs and four times as likely to engage in criminal activities. This makes finding supervised, yet engaging summer care for this age group all the more important for countless working families.

Not a Baby Anymore

As children grow older, they seem to feel that the activities they were once involved in, such as summer camp, are "too young" for them to continue. However, parents know that the experiences, lessons and learning that their teen has received is something they wish to continue.

"The American Camping Association (ACA) is a community of camp professionals who, for nearly 100 years, have joined together to share our knowledge and experience and to ensure the quality of camp programs," says Marla Coleman, president of ACA. "Because of our diverse 6,000 plus membership and exceptional programs, children, [teens] and adults have the opportunity to learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, skill development and healthy living – lessons that can be learned nowhere else."

Ways to Address the Issue

According to Karen Douchette from the Specialty Products Division of Abbott Park in Lake County, Ill., addressing the issue of sending your preteen or teen to summer camp can be quite touchy, and using care, concern and understanding is a must.

"Boys and girls entering sixth through ninth grades may feel they are too old for summer camp," says Douchette. "So bringing up the issue should be done when there are no other issues currently being debated. Offering the options and why they will not/cannot work for your situation may help your preteen/teen see that summer camp may be the best choice."

What NOT to Do

Offering an all or nothing, "you will or else" type of approach is not the way to go. Douchette says that this kind of attitude and conversation toward the issue is the best way to have your child fighting every step of the way and can cause a summer-long conflict between the teen and parents.

"It can't be forced," says Douchette. "The decision of participating in summer camp should be one that is decided on together, by both teen and parent. While it is the parents' final say that will make the difference, the teen should feel they had something to do with it."

Alternatives to Summer Camp

A summer job may be hard to come by in the hardening economy, and a "traditional" daycare setting is not open or optimal for a preteen or teenager. However, being home alone opens doors to conflict, trouble and possible questionable situations that a parent wishes to avoid completely. So where do these teens and parents turn?

"[Programs such as] the Summer of Service program are win-win-win situations for parents, their children and their communities," says Douchette. "The program is geared to support the needs of working parents and also shows that this age group can be positive contributors back to the community. Last year's program provided over 7500 hours of community service experience for young teens."

Some of the options that have been developed by Abbott include:

Operation Discovery

This annual event is hosted by leading Abbott scientists and employee volunteers to engage more than 350 middle-school children in interactive education sessions in microbiology, engineering, chemistry and medical/pharmacy.

Keystone Science School

Abbott sponsors middle-school science and environmental educators to attend the Key Issues Institute, Keystone Science School's national teacher training workshop, in Keystone, Colo. The week-long program provides a complete curriculum for teachers to explore environmental issues from a different perspective.

Abbott Explorer Programs

The Abbott-sponsored Explorer Posts program focuses on the science and technical industries, including engineering, laboratory science and computer science. Through the program, students receive on-site training that allows them to explore the dynamics of various careers. Explorer Posts is part of Learning for Life: Career Education and is designed for high school students.

Junior Achievement (JA)

Abbott and JA have partnered to offer Abbott employees the opportunity to work with local high school students to help develop their math, economic and business knowledge. JA is a national education initiative designed to teach and inspire students about free enterprise, business and economics.

Programs such as those developed by Abbott are available throughout the country, and one may be in your area. To find out more or to find a camp suitable for your preteen/teen and his/her interests, visit the American Camping Association's Web site.

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