A recent article for the Huffington Post, authored by licensed social worker and life skills coach Todd Kestin, is making its way around parenting circles on Facebook and other social media. Kestin’s piece unreservedly makes a case for giving kids the gift of summer camp as a way to prepare them for meaningful lifetime success.

Todd Kestin, LSCW, specializes in “helping teens and young adults foster healthy and meaningful life relationships and create a greater sense of meaning in their world.” He’s also a big proponent of the summer camp experience. Himself a decades-long camper and counselor, Kestin knows firsthand (and from multiple perspectives) how meaningful and life altering attending a summer program can be for a young person.

In his article for the Huffington Post, Kestin observes that students who go to camp benefit immeasurably from time away from home, with the opportunity to build relationships with peers and take on mentors besides parents. Quite often, these students are able “be themselves” in a summer program setting in ways they cannot at home. These students carve out community faster and more fully and find deeper meaning in their lives than their stay-at-home peers.

By the time I was in high school I had learned how to surround myself with people who would bring the most value in my life. I wasn’t born with important skill...I learned it at camp.

In fact, Kestin says, young people without summer camp experience often flounder when they head off to college. Though academically prepared, these students lack confidence in their ability to operate independently from mom and dad. By contrast, students who have camp or summer program experience (particularly of the overnight variety) know how to make meaningful connections, adapt to a new community, and function with a high level of independence.

With the incredible pressure around college admissions and post-collegiate success, it’s only natural for parents to focus on those years as an end goal and a metric for achievement. But Kestin makes a critical point about investing now in a summer camp or program for kids and teens. Young people learn life skills during summer camps and programs that change their lives fundamentally and for the better. And being comfortable and confident in college? That’s just the gravy.

Sometimes we as parents forget what’s important now. We’re so focused on what’s necessary later, we don’t realize we need to set our kid up now to have the skills to live later.