What to Know: Summer Camp for Teens

Happy friends at sunset mountains

We Want Our Teens to be Full of Confidence When They Step Boldly into the Real World.  Summer Camps for Teens are the Best Place for Them to Find It.

There are many parents out there wondering what they can do to support their teens growth and transition into the real world.  Or its simply, what can you do to create some kind of detachment from the screens that dominate their lives these days. 

It might be their habitual engagement with their phone; feeding that constant desire to check and update their social accounts.  It could be the video game that has taken countless daily hours from your teen and given them a second identity to showcase to their peers.  

With a number of available options in every state across the country, summer camps for teens provide you with a unique and impacting option.

An unplugged leadership experience at any time of the year is just the solution for parents worried about their teens digital and social rabbit holes. 

In my experience, I have found that the best way to appeal to older campers is through Exclusivity.  This is what they crave and respond to at their age.

At camp, this translates to the CITs being treated and trusted as young adults, having specific challenges and activities that only they participate in, and granting them a little more freedom than the rest of the campers. 

What is the CIT or Counselor in Training Program?

The CIT, or Counselor In Training program, at summer camps is designed specifically with a focus on leadership, responsibility, and positive role modeling.  The teens will engage in challenges that require a higher level of teamwork, mental fortitude, personal responsibility, and life skills development. 

The CIT program is also planned with legacy in mind; the younger campers should be excited and looking forward to their opportunity to age into this exclusive program.  

The summer camp might also call them LITs which stands for Leaders In Training. 

Depending on the summer camp, these are teens aged 14 – 18 years old.  Kids will age into this program as they progress through the camp seasons.

There is no requirement to have attended the camp previously to be able to enter the CIT programs at most camps.

During the camp session, they will engage in a higher level of challenges with many of the thrilling camp activities.  This could mean tougher sections on the high ropes course, a higher expectation of teamwork at the low ropes course, and more difficult trails on the mountain bikes.

To find out more, check out our recent post on the thrilling activities found at most summer camps.

group of happy diverse teens or youth playing at kids summer camp

How Will They Benefit From a CIT Program at Summer Camps for Teens?

Our teens growing up in today’s fast-paced, digital world face a much different set of challenges than the previous generations. Technology and social media has created a whole different set of ways for teens to reach and represent themselves to the world.

This has in turn created a different employment and skill development landscape for our teens as well.

It is crazy to think that we now live in a world where it is not surprising for a potential employer to request your Facebook handle on their interview paperwork.

And did I just say paperwork, I meant digital forms.

Weren’t we still using the dewey decimal system to find our library books just 25 years ago?  Think of your reaction to that shocking fact, and now realize that time is moving even faster for your teens.  

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An engaging, unplugged camp experience with the opportunity to make new friends and find new family is of incredible importance to your teens confidence and development.

Nobody reaches their dreams alone.  It takes a whole village of support, and I don’t know of a better one for an up-and-coming teen than summer camp.  

It is a unique experience that is cultivated for their success.  With the teens higher level of maturity, camps are able to explore tougher activities that focus on gradual skill development and leadership-based challenges.

My favorite adventures of my entire childhood were all tough point-to-point expeditions in New Zealand where you had to carry your house on your back.  And sometimes even above your shoulders at certain river crossings.  

Except back home, we started much earlier and didn’t always receive the same kind of short cuts that are expected today.  Such as suspended pulley lines for hauling gear across bodies of water.

My first major school expedition was an awe-inspiring 45 miles along some beautiful coastline when I was 11 years old.  Just like it will for your teens, it was an experience that has rippled positively throughout my entire life.  

Adventure Moment for Female Teen at Camp

How Are The Schedules Different at Summer Camps for Teens?

A Devotions Activity Each Night After Campfire.

This is an opportunity for them to discuss amongst themselves what they learned and took away from the day.  The counselors might decide on a couple of topics, but they are there mainly to facilitate the discussion.

A Longer And Tougher Out-Camping Adventure.  

When I was a teen, this was my favorite activity at summer camp.  The surge of confidence that you receive during this experience is hard to put into words.  Suffice to say, it is an immense feeling of true empowerment that carries with you in your Heart forever.

To find out more about this unforgettable adventure, we cover all of the inside knowledge with our recent post, The Out-Camping Activity at Summer Camps.

A Chance To Mentor the Younger Campers.  

Most summer camp schedules will build into the week an opportunity for the teens to support and mentor a younger cabin group as an auxiliary counselor.  This is a highly impacting experience for most teens, as they are suddenly thrust into leadership roles.

It is hard for those not familiar with summer camp to appreciate the enormous impressionable effect that counselors can have on their cabin groups.

Your teens will now be a part of this leadership expectation and responsibility.

And for many, it will be one of the strongest reflections of themselves that they will have experienced in their young lives.  The campers respond directly to their counselors.  As said in other posts, the old addage is true at camp, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”   

More Freedom In Deciding Their Own Daily Group Schedule.  

The CITs are viewed and treated differently than the rest of the campers.  It is important that they start embracing a wider sense of responsibility and independence for themselves.

Therefore they are viewed and treated as young adults; deserving of that higher level of freedom.

Keep in mind though that they will still have a strict curfew, will be gender-separated in the cabins, and none of this freedom should allow them to freely roam the campgrounds unsupervised at night.

Career and Skill Development Workshops.  

These are specifically geared towards how to move forward as a young adult into the real world.  These workshops could include discussing initial career choices, personal development in moving forward, and how to prepare for the real-world work environment.

Group Challenges Designed Specifically for the CITs.  

Every camp will have their own style of these types of activities.  I have seen many interesting ones over the years with mixed results.

Though whatever the challenge, no matter how outside-the-box it might be, I have always seen at least one determined group manage to pull it off every time.

I remember a challenge once that required the teens to build a functioning raft from a bundle of random cardboard, wooden sticks, and paracord.  And if that wasn’t tough enough, they also had to transport the rafts on trails to the local lake and get across on them.

I have to admit there were some very funny attempts that day, and almost every group failed spectacularly.

Except one.

They actually managed to build a raft for one person that I was giddy and excited afterwards to have a go on myself.  The empowerment that group felt as they were hiking out could be felt by everyone.

The beautiful thing with empowerment is that it’s contagious.  Soon we were all feeling it and hiking strongly as one CIT team.

How to Talk to Your Teens About the No Electronics Rule at Summer Camps

Every parent knows this can be a tough one to approach with your teens.  And I can tell you that how I express the awesome benefits of summer camp to a teen is much different than how I would express it to a younger kid.

This hurdle always has to be hit head-on with the teen fully understanding that this is an unplugged adventure that they’ll remember fondly forever. 

This hurdle can be much more easily scaled if your teen has some familiar faces to share the experience with.  Sharing an experience like this with their best mates will help them to comfortably embrace a no electronics environment.

And its also the best way that you, as a parent, can mitigate the potential separation issues with their electronics.

Keep in mind though I have seen some very sneaky teenagers over the years that are capable of going to extreme lengths to ensure they maintain their phone at camp.

As a parent, start the conversation early and from a point of understanding.  Realize that this issue could trigger significant anxiety for your teens.  As soon as you start to demand it, they will mentally switch off.

I have recounted to teens over the years that the most powerful and impacting moments in my life were all on top of tough mountain summits.  Moments that I honestly cannot put into words that would do justice to their awesome effect.

I also stressed to them that these moments take you to places that go far beyond electronics where there are no shortcuts to the top.

They require a deeper strength that, when you find it, will stay with you and drive you forever.  But you’ve got to get unplugged first!

Its the kind of strength that you can only realize in a moment that you’ve had to work extremely hard for. A camera or a social post can feel like it is detaching you from that deeply heartfelt moment.  Some even feel that they cheapen it. 

There are very few pictures of me on any mountain summits because those moments are deeply personal for me.

I always tell teens not to worry if they don’t capture the photo, they captured the moment in their Hearts.  And its not going anywhere!  

This picture is of a couple of mates and I at the summit of Mt Tyndall in the Eastern Sierras.  I’m the one with the blackhead wrap and the green jacket.

What To Know About A Summer Camps CIT Program:

How Long Has The Summer Camp Been Developing Their CIT Program?

This is a good question to determine how the Summer Camp prioritizes their CIT program. And how well they have structured it, as past experience is key to refining for the most impacting program.

The most successful CIT programs around have been developing their programs for decades.

Who Developed Their CIT Program? And Who Currently Is Running It?

The best camp CIT programs are ones that have been developed and refined over many seasons with the same core group of directors owning it.

If your camp changes their CIT director every season, then this could reflect a lack of priority placed on fully developing this program’s potential.

One of the members of the session directing team should be the CIT coordinator.  Or the camp might decide to structure one of the counselors as the lead CIT counselor.

Either way, the CIT program should be prepared and planned weeks, if not months, in advance of the start of the summer camp session.

What About The CIT Counselors?

The CIT counselors need to be more aware of the social dynamics in the group, especially in regards to intimacy.  At their age, many teens will feel inclined to test the limits with a sense of adult empowerment and knowing that no parents are around.

Gossiping about those of the opposite gender can be particularly damaging.  In my experience most times a suspected incident has occurred, it turns out to be just a rumor to boost the approval of an individual within their group.

If the camp has structured this program with strong counselors, the likelihood of such incidents is greatly reduced.

Camp Counselor Leading Kids Hike In Mountains

Types of Summer Camps for Teens

Academic and Enrichment Programs – There are a plethora of exciting and challenging real-world skill development programs in the US. Many are supported by local colleges and feature a caliber of professional instruction that surpasses traditional summer camps.

These academic and enrichment programs can include a summer at college to help your teen orientate themselves to their future surroundings, get a head start in their area of interest, and become familiar with other teens in the same position.

Community Service / Service Projects – There’s always a need for more help, and many local service organizations would love the chance to guide your teen into a project that gives back to their communities.

Even bigger organizations, such as the National Forest Service, offer programs for teens that serve to teach them about the bigger challenges facing our world.

I have even seen some summer camps that have developed mutually beneficially relationships with their local farms and animal shelters.

Creative and Performing Arts – These camps can range from band camp to digital film production camp.

Keep in mind that acceptance to these programs can often be competitive and involve an audition process.

Many of these camps are starting to concentrate on offering skill development that can be immediately applied to the working or college world upon their graduations.

Gap Year Programs – Gap Years are programs that offer prolonged skill development and adventures over the year between high school graduation and the start of their college tracks.

It is an ideal opportunity for young adults to enjoy the gift of time before the pressures of the real world are set upon them.

Language and Cultural Immersion – These programs are typically treated as an early opportunity to learn and understand a culture before a bigger future decision is made.  Such as preparing for a year-long study abroad program in college.

Language programs for teens can differ in their levels of difficulty. Some programs insist that the teens engage with their foreign language of choice almost 100% from day one.

These language programs are designed to help the teen master their everyday conservational ability within these foreign languages.

Special Needs Camp – There are many wonderful camps out there that are servicing our less fortunate.

From psychologically challenged kids due to their family surroundings to diabetes to autism, every kid deserves an impacting outdoor adventure. Most of these camps are non-profit companies and are always in need of extra help.

Sports Camps – These camps focus on a particular sports discipline, and work to bring your teen to the next level of competitive performance.  They can also serve as scouting tools for colleges.

International Travel Camps – These are prolonged camp experiences in foreign countries that can offer your teens a more worldly perspective before they are expected to set out on their own.  

Wilderness and Outdoor Expedition – These prolonged outdoor excursions take place in remote, backcountry locations, and carry a higher expectation of leadership for your teens.  The bonding amongst the hiking group will create lifelong friendships.

Scout Leadership Camps – It is hard to mention any kind of leadership camps for the teens without mentioning the Scouts.

They have been investing in developing our future leaders for decades, and feature a camp experience for teens in almost every developed part of the world.

That’s A Wrap!

Hopefully this post on how to trust summer camps for teens is helpful, insightful, and enjoyable for you.  Teens growing up in todays fast-paced world face different challenges.

It is so important for their confidence and overall development that they enjoy unplugged adventures at summer camp. 

It provides them with a new, passionate support structure in their lives.  Family doesn’t come much stronger than Camp.  And those camp friendships and that community are always with you!

This post is a part of our KCE Camp Tidbit – What About The CIT Program.  Have a great time preparing your young camper for their unforgettable outdoor adventure!

“The greatest feeling in the world is watching that awesome camper from four years ago become a counselor.” 

– Current Camp Counselor

For more of the best kids camp tips and insight, subscribe to our free and exclusive KCE Camp Tidbits emails.

Want to Share Your Experience or Ask a Question About Summer Camps for Teens?  Leave A Comment Below!

4 thoughts on “What to Know: Summer Camp for Teens

  1. Henry Killingsworth says:

    I’m glad you mentioned that there are a plethora of exciting programs that teens can participate in during the summer. I would think that it would be a good idea to send your teen to a youth conference if you are from a religious family. As far as I know, youth conferences generally have concerts and inspirational speakers that teens can listen to.

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