Is Summer Camp Right for My Teen?

With the summer fast approaching, do you have a plan for your teen? Some teens stay home all summer, some get jobs and others look for a variety of programs. With many options available for teens over the summer, consider what your teen is excelling in and what they could use some help with.

What Type of Program? What kind of program are you looking for? There are programs with very flexible scheduling and others that are more regimented. Each teen benefits from a program that will serve their needs specifically. Some programs serve as a day program. Your teen would spend several hours a day at the program and return home each afternoon. Other programs are residential where your teen would live on the campus for weeks or months. It is always best to consider what support your child will need in such programs.

Who are the Teens Served Here? Each program specializes in certain approaches. Some summer camp programs are specifically geared for teens with autism and ADHD. Other programs focus on teens who have substance use issues. Others are focused on preparing for a transition to school or college, some with a specific academic focus. Always be sure to review a program to see their specialty. Speaking with the staff is recommended to make sure your teen’s needs can be met. If your teen has any active behaviors that you think would be helpful for staff to know, bring them up during your initial call. It is better to be completely open during these calls so that no one is surprised. You want the best fit into a program as possible.

What is the Location? Camps are located all over. That can be exciting or scary. But it can be comforting knowing that your teen is in the program that can help them grow significantly over the summer. Although finding the right program may mean looking out of state, it is helpful to know what is out there. Some teens really benefit from a wilderness approach. Others use the summer to learn about accessing public transportation in a city. Paying attention to how your teen can grow over the summer will help make the decision easier, even if it means a few plane tickets are in your future.

What is the Daily Routine? The schedule of activities should be carefully considered when you are selecting a program. You know how your teen reacts to highly structured schedules. You also know how they react to relaxed, long breaks between activities. If the daily schedule is not posted online, be sure to ask staff what the days look like. What is the routine? What are the expectations of your teen? Will staff be taking breaks during the day or is there consistent supervision? Asking about nighttime support for residential programs can save you from uncertainty and unexpected phone calls.

Are the Staff Qualified? When learning about a program, ask who leads the activities and who is on staff. Be sure that the staff have the experience needed to support your teen throughout the program. Some summer camps have a great deal of experience with troubled teens, others have very little. Don’t leave it to chance. Ask before you enroll your teen.

Your teen can use a summer program to continue to grow and develop. Make it a positive experience by learning everything you can about the types of programs available. Involve your teen where it is appropriate. Securing buy-in from your teen can go a long way to having a productive and happy summer.


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