It is impossible to grow inside of your comfort zone. As parents and adults, and it easy for us to tell this to our children when encouraging them to try something new, but do we take it to heart ourselves?
On the first day of camp, nearly all of our campers are nervous, some much more than others. Even before camp, we talk to parents who say, “my child refuses to go” and “I don’t know how we’re going to get him out of the car.” And that has happened, coaxing kids out of the car. While most families feel that they are alone in these anxieties, they are not! It is natural to feel nervous about something you have never done before, especially if you struggle with anxiety or have had negative experiences in the past. If you asked parents to go to camp hours away from home, for 12 days, with other adults they didn’t know, they would be nervous too!
But there are so many opportunities to grow when you step out of your comfort zone. It is hard to see this when you have immediately crossed the “zone” boundary and all you want to do is step back in, but after some time and processing (which we try to do with each of our campers), you can really begin to see how far you’ve come.
This year was my first summer at SOAR. As a notorious worrier even in adulthood, I could sympathize with all of the campers who were feeling nervous on day one. If I were in that situation 10 years ago, I would have been the exact same way. I have spent most of my young life doing things I know I am good at, trying very few new things, and enjoying the comforts of “my zone”. As you can imagine, this gets boring and unfulfilling, so with the start of the new year (2015), I decided I was going to try some new things. One of those things was a 8 week pottery class. Aside from play dough, I have never crafted anything functional with my hands. I was nervous the first night, but I just kept telling myself “how hard can it be?” Well, it was hard! I didn’t want to go back. My immediate thoughts were, “I’m not good at this”, “My teacher must think I’m stupid”, and “I should just give up now instead of trying and failing later.”
Have you heard these thoughts before from your child?
As you probably guessed and since I am writing this blog post, I stuck with it. As the weeks went by, I actually got the hang of it! Now, I’m kind of “good”, for a beginner, and I love it! I started applying my teacher’s feedback instead of just letting it make me upset. He praised the things I did well and offered constructive feedback to help me improve. I noticed my confidence building week by week, and about half way through, I thought, “This is how our campers feel.” They come to SOAR feeling pretty uncomfortable and nervous about what they next 12-26 days will hold, but as they try new activities they’ve never done before and start to realize that they can succeed, they’re confidence skyrockets and their behavior improves. It is now so clear to me why.
It is an amazing feeling to step out of your comfort zone and experience success! These experiences make it so much easier to try other new things and take what you’ve learned and apply it to other areas, which is what we hope for each of our campers! If your child is feeling nervous about the possibility of overnight camp, let them know that these feelings are okay! We all feel nervous about things that are unfamiliar to us, even Mom and Dad, but in order to truly grow, we must step out!