Benefits of All-Boy and All-Girl Camps
Some kids thrive at camps where the social pressure to impress the opposite sex is not an issue.
Summer camp can be a place where memories are made and lasting friendships begin. While sleep away and day camps are typically coed, some parents and their children prefer single-sex camps in part for their opportunity for empowerment.
Less social pressure
All-boy or all-girl camps are usually smaller, so interactions are more intimate and, because there are no social pressures from the opposite sex, campers feel more confident in their environment.
“I think the boys and girls like to be surrounded by whatever they’re classifying as,” says Alexis Featherman, program manager at Camp Kelly in Tunkhannock, PA. There’s less pressure to act cool or look good and kids can act more authentically and explore outside their comfort zones.
“For parents of girls, they like the idea of their daughters being at a camp where they are not being judged by their appearance and can feel free to interact with other girls and not have the social pressures that boys would add to the mix,” says Renee Flax, director of camper placement for the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey. “For boys, it is very much the same philosophy. Parents want their sons to have strong role models from the counselors at camp.” At single-sex camps, most counselors are exclusively male or female for the comfort of campers.
Without social anxieties there is more opportunity for growth. “Having an intentional population where kids have the opportunity to engage with their peers who understand them is huge,” says Brian Lux, director of Camp Sequoia in Pennsburg, PA. His camp was created 10 years ago for non-neurotypical boys to improve skills and encourage friendships. “A lot of these kids, they just need the time and space to be able to grow, and if you’re in a situation with too many moving pieces, it’s more difficult to experience the same level of success,” he says. Once camp is over, these lessons are taken back into a coed environment.
Some single-sex camps also provide on-site therapists and gender-neutral bunks for nonconforming campers. “At our Tri- State Camp Conference we offer several sessions about how to be inclusive,” says Flax. “In the past several years we see more and more camps offering specific programming that will make all campers feel comfortable and accepted.”
If your child is transgender or gender nonconforming, ask camps what kind of training they give their staff and the resources available on site. Find a camp that provides a safe environment where your child can grow, have fun and have something exciting to look forward to each year.
How to decide
Parents should understand their child’s interests and comfort level before they decide on a single-sex or coed camp. “If you can come up with a list of five must haves and then a secondary wish list, it will help you to understand which camps will actually fulfill your needs,” says Flax. “It is difficult to find one type of camp that will suit all of your requirements, but you can get very close if you research it well.”
Rose Destra is a freelance writer from PA.