by Margaret Stockard
“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” -John A Shedd
The world is a scary place. Things such as death, illness, terrorism, crime, war, abductions, and climate catastrophes have come to define our landscape. Even on a smaller scale, there are dangers all around. Sharp corners. Electrical sockets. Wires. Gravel. Stairs. Hills. Rocks. The neighbors’ big dog. If we continue, everything has the possibly to be scary if we make it so. This does not mean we should throw caution to the wind, but I believe there is a necessary beauty in building resilience in young people. Whether its giving them the confidence and understanding to overcome pain or allowing them to get some cuts and bruises along the way.
I know it’s much easier to speak of safety and children when I do not have my own. Perhaps I would turn out like Jake Livingston’s parents in the film, Bubble Boy. Controlling everything they do right down to the air they breathe. I sure hope not though.
Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician based in Philadelphia, has identified seven “C’s” of resilience:
Children need structure. They need knowledge. They need values. They need to learn how to deal with stress. They need the realization that they can control certain outcomes. Some but not all. They should be acknowledged for playing a valuable role in the world around them. Everyone has worth. Everyone can make a difference. Everyone can feel pain. Overcome it. And full appreciate joy.
Of all of those great “C” words listed above, however, I think there is one missing: CREATE. It actually ties in with all of the aforementioned terms. I think kids need to create. Whether that is to help gain control over an outcome or connect with a group or cope with a situation; kids need to get down in the mud of things and do stuff.
This is one benefit found at summer camp. Not only do young people get to leave their everyday lives for a few weeks, make new friends, and try new things, but they also get to create. Whether that’s by forming a bond with another human being; or learning how to take apart a boat; or making a bench, or a pot, or a window, or the perfect chocolate chip cookie….etc. – they learn what their boundaries are and what they are capable of achieving. They shoot arrows at targets and learn concentration. They use power tools to hone in on their coordination. They speak in front of crowds to develop social and communicative skills. They create. And a lot of times they get dirty doing it. And maybe they bleed. And maybe they cry. And then they laugh. And they get up. And they run. And they do it again. And instead of the glass shattering, the skin gets tougher, and tougher, and smarter, and braver.
And you learn that it’s okay to lose. You learn that not everyone is a winner but everyone is beautiful. Everyone is a creation born to create. And I believe summer camp is a great way to utilize these skills. Because we can’t push a button and stop war or crime or death or illness. We can’t cover every corner and hide every knife. But we can teach people what to do with them. We can instill the value of the tool instead of the fear of it.
Gever Tulley, founder of The Tinkering School, spells out 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do — and why a little danger is good for both kids and grownups in this TedTalk video: