Building Confidence and Resilience in Teens

Teen in unicorn custume

I’m not an expert on confidence building or on how to increase resilience in teenagers, but I’ve been surrounded by teenagers enough over the last two decades to gain some insights of my own. I can tell you from personal experience I’ve seen teens have transformational experiences while living in a community with their peers.  Summer camps, particularly sleepaway camps, are excellent vehicles for helping kids (or, in our case, teens) gain confidence and increase their resilience.

Summer camps are uniquely positioned to help teenagers realize they can be independent and do hard things, which increases confidence. Our camp is on a big piece of land in a state forest. We walk several miles daily, and while it’s beautiful living in the woods, after a few days of rain, trying to stay dry can be challenging, and we all learn a little about resilience.

Every year, I’m impressed by how these sensitive,  wonderfully human teenagers who have never been to camp before find the courage to come to a place where many do not know anyone. It’s a hero’s journey; it takes courage to push through shyness and fear.

Some words from Morey on making friends.

Confidence building activities

We usually have a talent show on our second night of camp. You would think teenagers would be hesitant to volunteer to get up in front of 200 people on their second night at camp, but somehow, a big group of them do it.

I think it’s because even though they have only been at camp briefly, they somehow realize this place is different. Sure, the population is “queerer,” but they are also kinder and a whole lot more accepting and less judgmental than many of the people they deal with at school.

Campers sign up to get on stage because they sense it’s a unique opportunity to share a gift they have and to receive support, admiration, and applause rather than negativity, judgment, or ridicule for sharing. This first talent show sets the stage, literally and figuratively, for more kids to share their gifts and gain more confidence.

Check out Ash’s story.

When you can’t win, but you can’t lose either

We have over fifty activities available each day at camp. There is no winning or losing at any of those activities. Your value at camp will not be measured by how good you are at certain activities. I know it is not like that at all summer camps.

A friend of mine’s son went to an all-boys sports camp. My friend encouraged him to apply as a counselor when he was old enough. He thought his son would be a good counselor because his son was great with younger kids and really liked the camp.

He didn’t want to do it. He felt he would not be a popular counselor because he was not an outstanding athlete. He said that all the well-liked counselors at camp excelled at some sport. It’s too bad. Campers missed out because he would have been an excellent counselor, and it’s too bad that he felt like he did not measure up to being a counselor at that camp because he was just an average athlete. I’m pretty sure he would have been the best athlete at Odyssey Teen Camp.

Back to life

I don’t know why some people have more confidence than others or why some people seem to accept themselves while others spend their time auditioning for acceptance from whoever crosses their path. Someone wrote, “We are a society of winners where everyone feels like a loser deep inside.” That feels tough but probably somewhat valid.

As summer ends and your teens return to school, remind them that it is normal to feel lost or confused sometimes and not to know exactly who we are. Tell them life is for learning, and don’t forget to tell them often about the beautiful gifts and attributes you see in them. Those gifts are usually a lot more evident to parents than to the teens themselves, and maybe if we tell them enough, it will help increase their confidence. It definitely can’t hurt.

Find out about Odyssey Teen Camp

Jump to the video at the bottom of this page…

Adam Simon, Odyssey Teen Camp Director

Adam Simon

I'm Adam Simon. I started teen camp eighteen years ago with the vision of creating a space where teenagers would know they are safe from bullying or negative judgments and would feel free to show who they really are and to become their best selves. Let's connect, discuss, and engage...
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Find Out About Odyssey Teen Camp

A Non-Profit Overnight Summer Camp For Teens Ages 13-18
Located in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts.