Bridging the Gap Between Camp and School Friends

By Jessica Stuebner

“Make new friends, but keep the old.” 

It is such a lovely sentiment, but how do tweens put this timeless classic into practice? 

While everyone gets excited for the end of the year, there is also an anxiety that many tweens experience with the transition between school and summer camp and then summer camp back to school. One of the most challenging facets of this transition is the social one. The social life of a tweens is complex in nature, so here are five things to help your tween ease social transitions and maintain friendships through the school/camp seasonal shift. 

  1. Stay in touch.  Here is where technology can be our friend! Tweens this age are very lucky to have access to at least some form of technology with which to bridge the school/summer gap between friends old and new. Communication is only made easier with these new ways to maintain contact.  If you allow your tween to have a cell phone, we like the What’s App (free) for group chats that cannot be erased like other communication platforms. 
  2. Prepare ahead of time and be proactive. Prior to the end of school, have your tween collect the phone numbers (parents’ if that is your house rule) of at least 3 to 5 friends they wish to communicate with over the summer if you do not have them already. As a parent, set up one or two play dates with your tween’s friends ahead of time before summer even starts.  Fun day trips, outings or a simple park play dates are all good options.
  3. Be mindful of summer birthdays. Birthday parties are a great way for tweens to connect and reconnect with friends. While many people travel over the summer, there are tweens who have birthdays that fall in the summer and already have challenges planning birthday celebrations. Try hard to attend one or two to maintain that connection! 
  4. Get a penpal. If it needs to be electronic, fine. The penpal can be a friend from school with whom your tween wishes to maintain a friendship over the summer and is willing to reciprocate a pen pal relationship. And then, over the school year, have your tween pick a camp friend to buddy up with. This can be super fun and provide an unforgettable experience for your tween while addressing physical, emotional, academic, and other needs 
  5. Check in often. Ask your tween how things are going without coming out and asking.  Some good ways to phrase questions to gauge social well-being are as follows:  
  • Who did you sit with at lunch (or who did you play with at recess)?
  • Which one of your friends is the funniest and why?
  • Which one of your friends makes you happiest?