Go with a Friend or Go Alone?
As kids consider the prospect of a sleepaway experience, many hope to attend with a friend from home. Setting aside the fact that finding a friend with the same interests and coordinating summer schedules is difficult enough, is it a good idea to go with a friend or is it better to go alone? Is an experience enhanced or hindered by having a friend in tow?
With a friend – the upside:
- Having a familiar face during the first couple days of a new sleepaway camp experience can ease the transition from home.
- There is a feeling of security from having a friend right away.
- A friend to sit with on the bus to summer camp or the plane can be fun and a welcome distraction.
- Friends who don’t see much of each other during the school year can reconnect with a shared summer experience.
With a friend – the downside:
- Having a friend from home can limit a child’s ability or desire to make new friends and seek out new experiences.
- Going together can backfire on a friendship; differing interests in activities, new friends, and diverging expectations for the camp or program can all have a negative impact.
- The group dynamic can be affected negatively by pods of kids who know each other. Travel programs for teens in particular work very hard to create a group that works well together and is a supportive, welcoming community.
- Homesickness is contagious. One homesick friend can bring the other down quickly.
Go it alone – the upside:
- Attending alone builds confidence, independence, resilience and grit.
- Parents can encourage a child in his/her future challenges with a reminder of success at camp.
- Kids who go alone are keenly interested in making friends right away; they will bond with others and make lasting friendships with kids from other places and backgrounds.
- Counselors and staff are trained and focused on facilitating friendships, particularly for kids who come by themselves.
Go it alone – the downside:
- For those kids who struggle to make friends or shy away from new experiences, the absence of an immediate friend may make the transition a bit longer.
Whether your child attends a camp or program by his/herself or with a friend, it’s key to find the right match (hint: contact your Tips advisor!) to ensure the best chance for a positive experience. If your child goes with a friend, have a conversation with the parents to make sure interests and expectations align, and then speak to program directors. Sleepaway camps and summer teen trips are wonderful growth opportunities, so whether they go with a friend or go it alone, the most important thing is to GO!