Does Sibling Rivalry Occur At Camp?

Posted by Erec Hillis on Oct 15, 2014 3:40:00 PM

We get to talk with lots of prospective parents throughout the year about whether Camp Champions might be a good fit for their family, and that means that we get to answer lots of good questions.
One question that comes up frequently is how siblings handle being at camp together. Will they get to see each other? Will they be able to have time away from each other? Does camp help with sibling rivalry or exacerbate it? What if we have two, three, four, or more kids coming to camp? What about twins?


We will continue to answer questions of all of these varieties, of course, but want to use this space to share a few observations and trends as they apply to siblings.

1. Siblings can see as much or as little of each other at camp as they want

In most cases, siblings truly can decide to see as much or as little of each other as they want while they are at camp. With about 400 boys and girls of all ages at camp at one time, it's easy to have your own friends, your own cabin, and your own independent experience if you don't want to make a point of overlapping with your sibling on a regular basis. This is especially true if your sibling is in a different age group or of the opposite gender (more on twins in a moment).
However, there is ample opportunity for siblings who do want to spend time together at camp. We all still eat meals at the same time in the Fillin' Station, and there is a middle ground between the girls side and the boys side where brothers and sisters will often meet to check in on each other. There are also many Special Events for the whole camp that occur in the evenings, and this offers a chance for siblings to see each other out and around camp.
One of the most common questions we get is whether twins should be assigned to the same cabin or placed separately. We leave this decision entirely up to the parents. There is no standard practice here; some twins work best together and others work best separately. Parents still know their children best, so we defer to whatever you think will work best.
Whatever the ages and genders of siblings may be, camp can be either big or small enough to give them the appropriate level of interaction and still allow them to have their own unique experience.

2. We will focus on the goals of each individual sibling, whether they are the same or different

Another important point about siblings at camp is that we go to great lengths to make sure that each camper's needs and goals are a focus for their counselors. When registering, the parent will fill out a Parent Questionnaire that includes information about what the parents' goals are for each of their children. The counselors then study these questionnaires prior to the start of each term and keep the notes so that they are always looking for ways to help meet these goals.
For example, Susie Ma'am (the camp mom) loves to tell the story of how her first two kids (twin boys) were so different when they started attending camp. One was very extroverted and she wanted him to learn to listen better, while the other was very quiet and she wanted him to learn to stand up for himself more often. In addition to enjoying time apart in different cabins, each was able to get the experience that he needed because the counselors were able to work on the specific goals that Susie Ma'am set out for them.

3. It almost always helps to bring a friend to camp

One other thing we've noticed with siblings at camp is that it's almost always a good idea to bring a friend to camp, when possible. It's certainly not a make or break metric of success at camp, but siblings who bring a friend of their age already have a start on creating their own experience apart from their sibling. Our counselors are also quite skilled at initiating friendships in each cabin at the beginning of the term, so it's no problem if it's not easy to recruit a friend to bring. It's just one more thing that can help campers adjust to camp, especially if they are coming for the first time.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to siblings at camp, we can approach the session in almost any way to best set each sibling up for success. If siblings want to see each other every day (or multiple times a day) they can certainly do so. Or if sibling rivalry is a concern, we will make sure to find out how each sibling can be successful in their own way, without having to be compared to the other.

Camp can be a wonderful place for siblings to grow together, or a place that they can come to get a break and have their own, independent experience. We love watching the balance unfold for hundreds of sibling pairs every summer.