(847) 579- 9317 support@copingpartners.com

Michelle WintersteinMichelle Winterstein is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Coping Partners, a practice dedicated to supporting children, adolescents, and families through emotional and behavioral challenges. Michelle received her Master of Social Work degree with honors from New York University and has extensive experience in both hospital and outpatient settings. She specializes in working with young children, adolescents, and their parents, addressing issues such as behavioral problems, anxiety, and social pressures. Michelle also has experience in childhood obesity and is trained in motivational interviewing and change readiness.



Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [5:10] How discomfort at camp provides children with opportunities for growth
  • [6:36] Developing grit and a “stick-to-it” mindset for long-term success
  • [7:25] The critical role of a healthy psychological immune system in developing coping skills
  • [11:18] How reconnecting with nature and the outdoors can ground and inspire your child
  • [13:12] The benefits of a simpler, play-based childhood for enhanced mental health
  • [14:21] Why unstructured downtime is essential for emotional regulation

In this episode…

Sending your child to camp can be an anxious time for any parent. You may wonder if your child will thrive in an unfamiliar environment or if they’ll gain anything beyond just having fun. What if the discomfort they face could actually be a catalyst for their growth?

According to Dr. Leigh Weisz, a licensed clinical psychologist, children grow significantly when they step out of their comfort zones. She highlights that camp provides a unique environment where children learn resilience and confidence by overcoming challenges independently. Michelle Winterstein adds that being in nature helps children reconnect with themselves and develop creativity and new ideas. Together, they emphasize that these experiences foster essential life skills, preparing children to tackle future challenges with a sense of competence and curiosity.

In this episode of The Coping Podcast, Dr. Leigh Weisz and Michelle Winterstein discuss how the camp experience can be transformative for child development. They explore how overcoming discomfort builds resilience, the grounding benefits of reconnecting with nature, and the importance of a simpler, play-based childhood. Join them to discover practical ways parents can maximize the growth opportunities camp offers.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Special Mentions:

Quotable Moments:

  • By recognizing the opportunity in uncomfortable moments, we can allow for the most growth.”
  • “Discomfort does not equal danger.”
  • “One cannot skip the challenges and still get resilient.”
  • “Being outside…helps clear the mind, which ultimately makes room for new ideas and creativity.”
  • “A play-based childhood, with more time spent with peers independently of parents, is so crucial to their development.”

Action Steps:

  1. Encourage children to tackle new physical activities: Promotes perseverance and confidence through overcoming challenges.
  2. Spend more time in natural settings with your children: Helps in grounding and inspires creativity by reconnecting with the outdoors.
  3. Create space for unstructured play: Essential for nurturing social skills and self-regulation in children’s development.
  4. Embrace and learn from the challenges: Teaches resilience and grit as pathways to growth when navigating through difficult times.
  5. Foster a growth mindset in your family: Encourages a positive approach to personal development and learning from experiences.

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Coping Partners.

Coping Partners is a mental health practice dedicated to helping children, adolescents, and adults manage various challenges including anxiety, divorce, behavioral issues, relationship problems and much more in the Chicago suburbs.

Our practitioners are devoted to building on our clients’ strengths and bolstering weaknesses.

To gain insight and tools for getting unstuck check out our website at CopingPartners.com, email us at support@copingpartners.com.

To register for future webinars, please go to this link to be alerted: https://copingpartners.com/campwebinar/

Episode Transcript:

Intro 0:01

Welcome to The Coping Podcast where we share strategies for coping with the stressors of life, especially the difficulties of parenting. And here is your host, Dr. Leigh Weisz.

Dr. Leigh Weisz 0:15

This is a special episode.This is a clip from a webinar we presented called Unlocking the Camp Experience: Essential Ways Parents Can Maximize Their Child’s Growth. Just a quick disclaimer, the information provided is for educational and informational purposes only. This is not intended to provide mental health treatment and does not constitute a client therapist relationship. The information provided is not a replacement for being assessed and evaluated by a licensed professional and is not intended to replace mental health or medical advice. Okay, Michelle, do you want to get started?

Michelle Winterstein 0:51

Sure. Okay, so we are going to be unlocking the camp experience essential ways parents can maximize their child’s growth.

Dr. Leigh Weisz 1:00

Before we get started, though, I was just gonna say one more time. If you guys have questions as we go into the presentation, please type them into the chat. We’re going to have time at the end for some q&a. And we’ll kind of pick some questions that we want to answer. So just instead of losing track of them, just type them in the chat as we go. Go ahead, Michelle.

Michelle Winterstein 1:21

Okay, you’ve signed up for camp you sent the check and your duffels may already be packed, or you’re at least getting there. As child therapists. We really believe when you send your kids to camp, you’re giving your kids a gift, a gift that will naturally provide endless enjoyment, but also so much more. From our perspective. The fun comes second, the lifelong and valuable lessons that children learn from a camp experience, it truly is the gift that keeps on giving. With this being said, many of the benefits do not just come from making the decision to send your kids to camp, how you approach this experience is going to dictate the gains for your child and your family. And that’s why we’re here with you tonight. To help increase your awareness of the life skills and lessons camp provides to help you instill more of these at home in order to raise a healthy, happy adult, and to make sure you’re actually going to get the benefits out of this that you should. This is more important now than ever, as we see our younger generation struggling more and more with mental health issues. Sometimes the greatest lessons can provides stem from uncomfortable moments. And by recognizing these opportunity in these moments, we can allow for the most growth. So a little bit about us. Before we get started. Leigh and I have been in private practice together for the past 11 years. And from our very start together, we have always talked about how camp has contributed to the people and professionals that we are today, we often find ourselves encouraging clients that are able to recognize the immense value in the camp experience. So just a little bit about Dr. Leigh. Dr. Leigh is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice for the past 12 years after having been on staff and affiliated with the Family Institute at Northwestern University. She her undergraduate degree in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology, with a specialty in children, and her bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish from the University of Michigan. She grew up going to overnight camp for seven summers and both of her daughters are in their third year to seven week overnight camp.

Dr. Leigh Weisz 3:21

So for today, in terms of our agenda, we will cover what we feel are five top benefits for child development that kids get when they experience overnight camp. Of course, there are more than five, but we’re going to focus on five tonight, then we will talk about four key ways that parents can help support the magic of camp, before camp even begins during camp from afar. And lastly, long after camp is over. And then finally we will as we said, open this up for some q&a. So again, just to reiterate, for those of you coming in, please if you do think of questions throughout our presentation, please type them into the chat. And then at the end we’ll be able to address them. Okay, so the very first benefit for Child Development The first thing that we think kids gain when they go to overnight camp is resilience and confidence.

Michelle Winterstein 4:18

A longitudinal study over a five year period highlighted the lasting impacts of camp and illuminate how camp experiences support young people and developing valuable skills. Learning who they are and preparing for life beyond camp can provide opportunities for challenges and you just can skip the challenge part and get resilient. Ultimately kids need to have challenging experiences obstacles, if you will, to pay though it pathway for growth, fearful parenting and for good reason. And the understandable tendency to think worst case scenario is reality has been damaging to our youth camp provides a place where kids can experience challenges, setbacks and joys without their parents overseeing these experiences. Without parents, there is a crutch. Kids naturally figured out how to do so much more on their own, they can then bring these newly found skills home, probably displaying what they’ve learned on their own.

Dr. Leigh Weisz 5:10

So just because we’re not with them, children are going to be experiencing all kinds of things, and made me feel uncomfortable. And ultimately, that discomfort is what provides opportunities for growth. Many of your kids are taught from a very young age, this concept of growth mindset that Carol Dweck coined, and they’re taught it in school, I think preschool kindergarten for sure. And it’s important for us parents also to understand that from discomfort comes growth. So it’s so important that we put the equation up on the screen for you to all see, in therapy, we teach kids that while feeling uncomfortable, isn’t pleasant, it also isn’t dangerous. And it’s important that we understand that distinction of discomfort does not equal danger. We are all wired to survive. And so we have those fight flight or freeze instincts for true dangerous situations. But most of the situations that our kids and us are in when we have these rushes of anxiety in our bodies are not actually true, dangerous situations. So it’s important that we help as parents or kids ask themselves, am I in danger? Or am I just out of my comfort zone. And if it’s the ladder, we want to reframe being out of their comfort zone as an opportunity for growth.

Michelle Winterstein 6:36

So this leads to two important buzzwords that Leigh and I often lecture about, we feel that grit or stick-to-itiveness is vital to raising healthy adults and we put our youth isn’t getting enough opportunity to practice it. Grit is defined by Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit, as perseverance and passion for long term goals. By web search to find is the quality that allows someone to continue to try to do something even though it’s difficult, continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties. In simpler terms, you can think good work ethic. In order to gain coping tools, kids need to be provided opportunities to face challenges and to stick them out at camp in the best way possible. Opportunities for this are endless. The goal is for kids to ultimately recognize the value of the pursuit. So such experiences are eventually sought out instead of feared.

Dr. Leigh Weisz 7:25

So just like we need kids to be exposed to germs and dirt in order to develop a healthy immune system. We also really do need kids to develop a healthy psychological immune system. And from these hurdles, or challenges or bumps in the road that they experience, honestly, that is how they develop coping skills or grit. And so the goal is actually not to raise kids in a bubble, free of negative experiences, even though that certainly would appeal to most of us parents in the short term. It sounds lovely. But the goal is not to raise them in a bubble because and we put this on the slide too for you to see, one cannot skip the challenges part and still get resilient. It’s true, over protected kids who never experienced stressors, and of going through life really anxiously, we’ll refer to a book that I’m sure many of you have read recently, because it’s the talk of the town. It’s called The Anxious Generation. And it’s written by Jon Haidt. And it’s a tremendous book. It’s really, really important. But the kids who never experienced these stressors, end up going through life in what he calls the defend mode, or the anxious mode. In other words, they’re scanning the world for potential dangers, rather than tackling life in a default discover mode or curious mode, and feeling confident about their own ability to cope and tackle life’s challenges head on. So at camp, we’ve given a couple of examples in this slide. Learn to water ski is something that a lot of kids come back from camp learning to do. But it requires stick to itiveness. Because most people don’t get up on their first try, right. And so if you want to learn how to water skid camp, you really just can’t plan on trying once and throwing in the towel, you start maybe learning on the boom, then you might graduate to the short rope, and eventually try to get up on the long rope and try to see how far you can go across the lake. And along the way, in this process. The kids fall, they get water up their nose, the belly flap, and as unpleasant as all of that might be. They try again and again and again. And with the support and the encouragement of their, you know, counselors and maybe the healthy peer pressure of their friends, they practice over and over. And when they actually have this experience of like going all the way around the lake. They feel such a sense of accomplishment. So that Next time that another challenge is presented to them, instead of being fearful, they’re really excited and ready to tackle that challenge, because they felt in their bodies what it feels like to succeed. Another example of how camp Foster’s resilience is, you know, losing, we put that on the slide. You know, at camp, there are so many opportunities to win and also to lose. Most camps have color wars or sporting events, swim meets tennis matches, and you have to practice graciously losing coping with that feeling and handling it over and over and over. Michelle actually sent a postcard to her daughter that’s it’s on the screen, it says too legit to quit when she was trying to learn waterski because she recognized that her daughter was getting frustrated because it didn’t happen on the first try. And of course, she wanted her to continue and keep at it.

Michelle Winterstein 10:57

So the second benefit that we’re going to talk about is reconnecting with nature and the outdoors. As we work with a society to restore and strengthen our youth collective mental health nature’s at the forefront of this effort. Reconnecting with nature and the outdoors, grounds kids and helps them slow down. So nature has proven time and time again, to make us feel connected in a way that nothing else can.

Dr. Leigh Weisz 11:18

Unfortunately, the world that we’re raising our kids in is filled with technology from a much younger age than is healthy. Kids, again, were meant to have this play based childhood, to figure out their footing as they climb on the playground, or ride a bicycle to explore the real world around them. And of course, we hope your kids are doing those things. But we know that kids are spending hours and hours of the day also on screens, which truly does take time away from time they could be spending in nature and doing other things. So again, at camp, they are immersed in nature. And without making it a mindfulness intervention they feel in their bodies, what it feels like to be grounded, to be surrounded by beauty to enjoy the present moment, to be really active and using their bodies. And when they’re in that mode, they’re likely not worrying about the future anxiety, or dwelling on the past.

Michelle Winterstein 12:17

They’re spending time outdoors helps clear the mind which ultimately makes room for new ideas and creativity. The senses helps to ground our bodies in our hearing now in a common way. In our therapy practice. When kids are anxious, we often use this skill with them, we ask them to look around the room and tell us what they’re hearing what they smell and what they feel, and so forth. It helps to center us, the competence piece also comes to play with physical challenges as well. This is something that so many kids lacked due to the increase in indoor structured activities with an adult constantly present, we can go back to our child’s early years and think about the benefits of a playground and achieving and working towards a new skill. Even something seemingly simple, like independently climbing up the ladder to reach the slide. Being outside, whether it’s cartwheels in the grass, kicking a soccer ball around or canoeing on the lake, kids get practice with these new skills, stepping outside their comfort zone with newfound confidence.

Dr. Leigh Weisz 13:12

So we’re going to talk about the third benefit for child’s development of going to overnight camp, which is going back to a simpler way of life where kids get to be kids. So at camp there is there is running around, but there’s no running around feeling stressed about getting to the extracurricular activities on time. And, you know, having a quick dinner and running here and feeling the pressure of stressed out parents, kids are on site the whole time, and they get to play and just be kids. And that is a beautiful thing. And this is again, what the author of The Anxious Generation talks about right. And this is what he wants for kids, a play based childhood, with more time spent with peers and dependents of parents more face to face interactions, which is so crucial to their development in our parents or grandparents generation when they would come home after school kids and they would ride bikes in the neighborhood and they play with the play in the mud with their friends, you know only to come home for dinner time. These games these days seem like a thing of the past. And so again, a camp we really want to go back to the basics.

Michelle Winterstein 14:21

So this childhood playing independence allows children to develop and hone social skills learn tools to overcome anxiety and become self governing young adults. It’s truly incredible to think about the benefits that arise from simply allowing kids to be kids. This also includes kids needing more practice just being to better be able to tolerate their own thought process and feelings and calm their bodies and regulation systems. This is something so many kids struggle with nowadays. This unstructured downtime also allows the necessary properties to form healthy and meaningful connections with others, something that is severely hindered due to smartphones and social media.


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