by Margaret Stockard
Adolescence is the age-old purgatorial suspension between shedding a certain part of childhood and transitioning into what’s next. Boys have cooties and then they don’t. A girl is your best friend until she likes a boy with whom you also have feelings. Weaving between coed relationships is an important journey, but it can also be challenging and anxious to teenage girls, younger children, and even adults!
Girls tend to be less preoccupied with how they look or act in a single-sex environment, and therefore, may be more inclined to try something new as they discover the freedom in becoming who they are. Dressing up in silly costumes or running around in pajamas tends to have a new meaning when boys aren’t around. Perhaps a girl wants to try out for one of the camp theatre productions but is scared people might laugh if she messes up, or they might think she looks dumb. Ideally, these types of situations would not arise no matter the population, but at times girls just feel less anxious when not also thinking about trying to impress a boy.
An all-girls camp can be a great place to booster confidence as well as shift behavior. Girls-supporting-other-girls is a powerful and beautiful tool. Many girls come to camp and leave their entire home and school lives behind. In this new environment, they find other girls who will become confidants, friends, encouragers, and expert friendship bracelet-makers and hair- braiders! And it’s not all just sitting around holding hands and brushing hair. Large events such as Color War can be competitive, and hold a much different look when it’s sisters playing against sisters, as opposed to putting boys in the mix.
Body image self-awareness can also arise as young girls start to get older. Activities such as swimming or sports-related events can increase levels of anxiety or make a girl less likely to participate if she is worried about how she appears to a boy. These types of coed engagements are an important developmental process, but having a break during some of the biggest periods of social and physical change can again be a good way for girls to really focus on challenging and learning more about themselves.
Many all-girls camps have brother camps nearby and this allows for some coed interactions during the summer. They are still able to meet and delve into certain social and coed interactions without it being part of their daily camp atmosphere.
Distractions are thrown at people every day, no matter their age. Summer camp allows for a few weeks where certain distractions are taken out of the mix. Whether that is use of the internet, situations at home, a boyfriend, or the potential for a camp crush, an all-girls environment really allows for childhood and young adult development to thrive. Girls will leave hopefully carrying a different set of ideals for themselves, a boost in confidence, lifelong friends, and a perspective that they will take back with them when they once again enter life outside of that summer abode.