Sending all your children to camp can sometimes be a difficult feat, especially when you factor in varying interests, compete levels, schedules, age ranges — not to mention double the camp costs (even though many camps offer sibling discounts). However, for some kids, experiencing camp together it can provide a unique opportunity to connect and provide support.
Some of these campers can be siblings who are going to camp together, either in different or the same age groups.
“It’s a great opportunity to (do) something together to share a common experience,” says Dan Reynolds, director of camping services at Akron Rotary Camp, which has a week-long siblings camp for kids with special needs and their brothers and sisters to experience camp activities together.
Reynolds says that the camp works around the needs of the families to provide an experience that makes the most sense for them.
“The idea is to allow these kids to have a great experience together without the stresses of life from home and school,” Reynolds says, adding the brother or sister of the sibling with special needs gets to see them excel or do things they never thought they would do.
“It helps them see that they are not alone in their unique family environment,” he says.
Donna Johnson sent her sons, Donovan (age 15 at the time), and Elijah (age 13), to The Music Settlement’s Rock and Blues Camp in 2014.
Johnson says, “Elijah looks up to Donovan, so he was excited that they would be in camp together.”
She adds, “I also felt for Donovan, it was good for him to understand that maybe sometimes Elijah does need his assistance as a big brother. With Elijah being on the Autism spectrum, sometimes he isn’t quite capable of verbally expressing himself. To Donovan, he’s just ‘Elijah’. However, once they were not at home and actually around other peers, teachers, etc., he was forced to really see that his brother may need him to speak up for him sometimes and I think that made him feel a sense of protection that maybe wasn’t there before. I think spending time together during the day in a social setting helped to teach my sons that they are responsible for not only themselves, but for each other.”
Camp can help siblings bond through their similar experiences, especially if attending the same camp, or it can play a role in providing support for one another. While it can happen in any setting, one camp that highlights this is Cornerstone of Hope, which offers four summer bereavement camps that provide grieving children and teens an opportunity to participate in activities to help cope with the loss of a loved one.
Siblings who participate in these camps, even if they are in separate age groups, can rally together.
“When they come to camp, it gives them an opportunity to connect on a different level, normalize their grief experience with other kids and families dealing with the same issue,” says Laura Serazin, counselor and art therapist at Cornerstone of Hope, which serves the Cleveland and Columbus areas.
She adds because they are are both talking about the same topics, there is an increased awareness of what their sibling is dealing with emotionally.