The Importance of Friendships and Social Connection for Kids
Summer Day Camps Foster Social Connections and Children’s Mental Health
For many of us, summer camps bring back memories of laughter and good times in the summer sun, but they are much more important than that for a child’s mental health. Child mental health experts know the importance of building healthy social connections and friendships. Summer day camp can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy relationships and social connections.
Importance of Healthy Social Connections for Kids
Social connections are important for all of us, and healthy social connections are especially important for children. Our connections help us develop a sense of well-being and support. Healthy social connections have also been associated with a longer life span and general improved health in adults, and learning to develop them begins in early childhood.
Social media can be an excellent way to foster friendships and share time with others who have similar interests. It is also an excellent way to maintain friends over distance, but there is a risk involved in too much social media use. One of the biggest debates in child psychology is whether there is a difference in quality between online vs. offline friends.
The debate about whether friends that we only connect with online have the same positive effects as those who we see offline in the “real world.” There has even been some debate about calling the offline world the “real world” and whether online connections are just as valid. There could certainly be an argument either way, and many times, the lines are blurred because kids will spend time with certain friends both online and offline.
One theory on relationships is that it is about the amount of time that you invest that determines its strength. With kids spending an increasing length of time on social media, it leaves less time and energy available for offline relationships. One of the concerns is that kids might share only a limited amount of interests with their friends online because there are only limited opportunities for shared activities.
Yes, you can play a shared sport in a multi-player game, but this does not have the same sensory experience as a real game of baseball outside. A lack of exercise is another concern because this is another important element of child development. The strong connection between physical and mental health is well-established in children and adults.
Pitfalls of the Online World for Kids
In a recent study, it was found that people between the ages of 8 and 24 spend approximately 44.5 hours a week online, and 23% of teens and kids feel that they have an online addiction. This trend has been associated with childhood obesity, severe sleep deprivation, and an increased chance of developing depression, attention problems, and anxiety. It also leads to academic problems, behavioral problems, and a feeling of loneliness. Social connections are not always about being around people if the child does not have a feeling of connection.
Summer day camps are an excellent way to make sure that kids are spending time away from the screen, having face-to-face interactions, and learning important social skills. Some signs that your child might be spending too much time online include:
- Becomes angry when interrupted online
- Stays up too late on the internet
- Ignores limits set by you regarding online time
- Prefers being online to being with family and friends
- Continually checks social media
- Anxious to get back online when doing offline activities
- Loses interest in activities enjoyed before getting online
If your child is exhibiting any of these signs, it may be time to look into trying to encourage them to do other activities. A summer camp is a perfect way to get them offline and to help them find other interests. If you feel that your child has a serious internet addiction, it is a good idea to enlist the help of a professional. One of the main suggestions professionals have is helping your child develop other interests outside of the online world. They also encourage parents to set limits to online activity that are monitored and enforced.
Tips to Help Your Child Connect With Others
Even though children are around people all the time at school and throughout their day, sometimes they still have difficulty making meaningful connections and forming strong friendships. As a parent, you want to be able to help them get more meaning from the people in their lives. Here are a few tips for helping kids learn to foster strong friendships and social connections:
- Don’t force it. Don't force your child to engage in activities that they don't enjoy but encourage them to explore new things and find something they do like. When they find something, support and encourage their participation.
- Encourage connections beyond online. Even though your child may have interests online, it is important to encourage them to seek connections outside of the online world. If your child has a friend online, encourage them to foster the relationship offline, too.
- Get help for social anxiety. Social anxiety is a real problem for many children, especially as they approach the teen years. If your child has true social anxiety, it is important to get them help, so they can develop those special bonds.
- Identify common interests. Encourage your child to identify common interests that they have with others. This can be their favorite music, games, books, movies, or sports.
- Encourage positive body language. Model positive body language like smiling, speaking confidently, and using eye contact appropriately. It is important not to chastise your child for not doing so because this will probably make them more self-conscious rather than help.
- Be a good listener. Another important skill to model is how to be a good listener. Encourage your child to let the others talk before they jump in with questions or comments out of excitement.
- Encourage questions. Listening and speaking confidently are important skills, but it is also important to learn to ask good questions of others to keep the conversation interesting.
The best thing that you can do is to be a good model, but if your child is truly struggling, do not be afraid to seek professional help. It is easy to pass it off as a stage or think that they will just grow out of it. Sometimes, this is the case, but if it goes on for too long or you think there are other issues, it is important to get the help your child needs so that it does not affect them later on in life.
How Summer Day Camps Can Help
A safe kids camp is an excellent place to practice all of these social skills. Here, they can engage in supervised healthy play and see excellent examples of positive social interactions from someone outside your home. A summer camp is an excellent way to promote healthy social development in kids. They can build lasting memories and form friendships that can last a lifetime.
If you are ready to give your child a summer filled with social connections and lifelong memories, contact our staff at Chartwell’s Happy Day Camp in Marlton, NJ. We can be reached at 856-983-8827 or email@example.com.