More Than S'mores

A blog from the Kennolyn campfire

Teaching Gratitude and Mindfulness to High School Students is Easier With Summer Camp

February 27, 2018 12:35 pm

If gratitude is something your high school students struggle to connect with, you’re definitely not alone. Parental lectures about counting your blessings and volunteer trips to the soup kitchen only go so far in teaching teenagers about the deep meaning and abundant joy that can come from expressing gratitude in their daily lives.

Thankfulness is one of the major values campers learn at Kennolyn, and we know firsthand that high school students frequently struggle with this particular topic. Through the various leadership opportunities, challenging and fun activities, and lasting traditions that we offer our campers, it’s much easier for them to count their blessings and enter a grateful mindset year-round—no lecture required. Part of the reason that gratitude and thankfulness can thrive at Sumemr Camp, is the intentional moments of mindfulness that occur. Regular periods of rest and reflection ensure high schoolers are in a mood to pay it forward rather than stressing out about school work and social anxieties.

Feeling Thankful for Summer Camp

Plenty of campers leave the Kennolyn property at the end of summer with bittersweet smiles, feeling inexplicably changed by their experience and already looking forward to next year. Campers will tell stories and share memories from the camp they love over the entire year that follows, and we can all hear the longing in their voices, wanting to go back to that awesome time in their lives. That’s mainly due to the fact that great summer camps intentionally foster a culture of gratitude.

From maintaining polite interactions with camp staff to not leaving a trace on the trail, camp rules are designed to help individuals respect and appreciate their surroundings. Camp is a place where your words and deeds truly matter, and the considerate nature required of campers paves the way for thankfulness to develop. The best camps are made up of a whole community of staff, counselors, and friends constantly expressing appreciation and thankfulness for each other—behavior that just seems to come naturally in this environment.

Discussing Camp Thankfulness With Your High Schooler

Sending your child to a fantastic summer camp program is only the first step toward a life-long gratitude habit. Thankfulness can be a rather abstract concept that can take time to develop fully—which is why tangible, real-world scenarios are best for reaching into that part of their mind. Discussions after the summer camp experience and throughout the year leading up to next summer can help keep the lessons of camp close to their heart.

Try working through the following conversation starters together:

  • How might other teens spend their summer days without camp to look forward to?
  • Discuss the possibility of not attending camp next year. Talk through how they might feel, and what they would miss most.
  • Involve your kids in the camp planning and payment process. Put the cost in terms that they immediately understand. How many months of allowance (or hours at the movie ticket counter) would it take for them to pay for camp on their own?

Forming Traditions of Thankfulness

Finally, summer camp helps high schoolers feel and express gratitude for the traditions that shape their lives—just like the holidays do for us now as adults. Our Kennolyn traditions include going on Outpost every summer to experience sleeping under the stars in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Our equestrian specialty campers look forward to their overnight ride. We all enjoy nightly campfire skits, performances, and celebrations. Sunday Inspirations always inspire us to think about ourselves in a new way. The absence of any of these traditions would feel as bad as the absence of a favorite cabin-mate.

Traditions are important touchstones for us to look back on and feel thankful for. In your own home, you can inspire the same kind of gratitude by starting a memory-sharing tradition that the whole family takes part in. Try using the following questions in a round-table discussion, as brief writing prompts, or in a dinner table game, depending on the amount of buy-in your high schooler is already showing. In my family, we like to draw a question at random and answer for the group before passing to the next person.

Use these Springtime-themed talking points to inspire gratitude in your family this season:

  • What was your favorite Spring break?
  • What summer activity do you look forward to most each year?
  • As the end of the school year approaches, which teacher are you grateful to this year?
  • What is your favorite Springtime memory?
  • What is your most prized possession? What would happen if you were to give it away?

Summer Camp Teaches Gratitude to High School Students

Parents of teenagers understand that there’s no forcing someone to be grateful. The iron-clad nature of our own parental influence is simply not enough to get a high schooler to buy into the idea of gratitude. That’s why we believe in giving our campers experiences and memories that they can naturally feel grateful for—and then facilitating those thought patterns later on through open-minded and compassionate discussion.

Want to learn more about Kennolyn camp programs for high schoolers? Reach out to our office today, and we’ll be happy to discuss the ins and outs of high school summer camp with you and your family. Please remember, many camps have programs that go all the way through high school but may require campers to be a part of the camp community no later than Freshman year. Demand for these programs is so high, many camps do not have room to take new campers in the highest grades. The key is to plan early. We can’t wait to welcome your family into Kennolyn’s culture of gratitude.


Kennolyn Camps

Kennolyn Camps