Building the 7 C’s of Resilience at Teen Adventure Camp

Josh Goldbach29 Apr, 2024

A boy sits in front of a campsite with two red tents in the Colorado mountains

Our world isn’t a simple or easy place to navigate. The last four years alone have brought us wars, polarizing politics, and a global pandemic that changed our lives forever. Parents are now fielding questions from their kids about racism, gender identity, social order, and systems of power. These conversations are necessary and also hard.

The current generation of teenagers came into their adolescence through these layers of current events. Going through puberty has never been easy, but we find ourselves in an era where young people are struggling in ways we haven’t seen before. Members of Gen Z (the U.S. population between the ages of 11 and 26) are self-reporting as the least resilient demographic alive today.

Resilience matters. The world isn’t likely to become a less difficult or less complicated place to navigate. Eras shift and bring unforeseen challenges, even as we solve the critical issues of today. It’s impossible to control the challenges our teens will have to face, both in the outside world and in the landscape of their own mental health. The only factor we can influence is how they, as individuals, respond to these challenges.

One of our 2024 themes at Bold Earth is the importance of resilience. We’re focusing this year on the ways we can nurture resilience on our programs because we believe we can provide the right environment for teens to encounter challenge. We’re well equipped to help build this character strength because our trips prioritize safety and support from healthy role models while giving space for teens to grow. On our trips, teens can choose challenges, confront failure, and learn to try again in a well-supported environment.

The 7 C’s Model of Resilience

The 7 C’s are a set of tools for building resilience in kids from 18 months to 18 years old from Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Ginsburg developed this model as a way to give parents and caregivers a scaffold to help support their children’s emotional strength.

These are some ways we build the 7 C’s of resilience at Bold Earth.

1. Competence

Every Bold Earth teen adventure begins with a first step. A majority of our participants will say their goodbyes at the security gate of their home airport and get on a flight to take them across the country (or the world). It’s up to them to navigate any layovers, manage themselves and their luggage, and travel independently to their destination. For many, this is the first time they’ve ever flown solo. Being trusted to do so and given the tools to succeed allows them to step off the plane with a feeling of competence.

Trying something new (and having the possibility of failing) are crucial to building competence. Choosing to go on a Bold Earth trip and following through, regardless of the details of the itinerary or the destination, can be challenging and scary. Coming home on the other side, having made it through and had an amazing time, builds competence for the next time a teen wants to take a big leap.

A teenage boy holds a kayak paddle over his head on the banks of a mangrove inlet

2. Confidence

Many Bold Earth teens have never cooked their own breakfast, lunch, and dinner before. They might not have the confidence to produce a beautiful and delicious meal for ten other people, using just a camp stove and a few simple ingredients. Throughout the course of a two-week program, they’ll do exactly that.

We practice life skills on our trips, in addition to adventure sports and outdoor recreation. Teens will do their own laundry, cook almost all of their meals, and manage their personal belongings. These daily and weekly practices can be challenging at first, but chores done as a group often turn into a whole new type of fun.

Having confidence from sporting or academic accomplishments might be a part of your teen’s life already, but we’re interested in building a different type of confidence–the type that doesn’t come from physical attributes or past successes. This confidence doesn’t take any previous experience or natural ability. It comes from realizing we’re able to take care of ourselves and the people around us.

3. Connection

Real relationships are the foundation of what we aim to provide our participants every summer. The people that make up our community at Bold Earth are weird and wonderful, but most of all they’re loved for being themselves. Our culture, both in our leadership team and within each cohort of trip leaders, centers around connection. We value kindness above coolness. Our trip leaders’ role model being the most authentic version of themselves and create spaces of acceptance for each unique group of teens.

Connection is the net that catches our participants when they try hard things and fail. Launching into the unknown can be terrifying if you feel alone, but it can become a great adventure when you’re surrounded by friendly faces. When teens know their group has their back, they’re more willing to take risks.

A group of teens smile on a grassy field

4. Character

Character is built by scaffolding a set of values and using them to drive our actions. Our Bold Earth families have diverse values and our participants are exposed to other ways of living and being when they meet each other. Our participants come from across the country and sometimes even the world. When they arrive on a Bold Earth program, we introduce some of our community’s values: kindness, acceptance, authenticity, playfulness, and a growth mindset. These values are agreed to with a group contract that everybody signs on the first day.

Throughout a trip, the group undergoes a formative process of bonding and testing limits. Teens will start to figure each other out and get into the groove of the itinerary. Each night after dinner, the group gathers at an evening meeting to discuss the day. The structure of the evening meeting is two parts fun, and one part seriousness. There are the logistics of tomorrow’s schedule, expectations for when activities will happen, and ceremonies to celebrate individuals. There’s also space and time to talk about feelings. When tough things happen, trip leaders guide discussions and help foster resolution. Whenever we need to, we look to the values we agreed to as a group to remember what unites us.

5. Contribution

Many of our summer adventures have service components that are often a highlight for teens. Although we don’t offer service-centered trips, we do believe in the importance of weaving contribution into the fun. Our volunteering projects are usually small and highly localized to the area our groups are traveling in. They don’t occupy the majority of the trip, but their meaning comes from the empowering feeling of giving back.

Helping a community or landscape by donating time and effort is a great way to learn how to ask for help for yourself in the future. Contributing to a service project isn’t just about leaving a positive impact. It’s also about practicing the cycle of reciprocity. When we enjoy and connect to a place, we want to contribute something of our own to make it better. This process of giving helps us feel comfortable receiving from others in a genuine and positive way.

A teen group picks plants in a field

6. Coping

Homesickness hits many of our participants at some point in their summer adventure. It’s only natural to miss the family and friends left behind. Even if the trip is really cool and the people are nice, feeling homesick makes the days drag and the activities lose their excitement. At it’s most severe, homesickness can even feel like a crisis.

Experiencing homesickness can help our participants practice coping skills. Using relaxation techniques and taking time to reflect on feelings are important steps of processing homesickness. Our trip leaders are there to support teens during these times. It’s never fun to miss home, but coping with the stress of being away for two weeks can be a great first step towards greater independence as a young person.

A boy sits on a rocky ledge looking over an alpine lake7. Control

The word control can have a negative connotation, but in this context it’s used to describe personal agency. Practicing agency in our lives is essential to developing resilience. Children and teens are used to having many things outside of their control, which is why it’s so important to allow them agency when we can. Understanding that their decisions have real impacts on the outside world helps teens choose to act in a way that helps themselves and others. Feeling powerless undermines their resilience because it takes away their perceived ability to make a difference.

At Bold Earth, agency can start from the very first moment a teen expresses interest in a trip. Allowing them to pick their own adventure, pack their own bag, and live with the natural result of these decisions is a powerful step towards building resilience. Teens who drive their application process and ask their own questions arrive at the program already prepared to take ownership of their experience.

A Summer of Resilience

We’re going to continue nurturing resilience in teens this upcoming summer and we’d love to invite you into our community. If you’d like to take a look at our programs, check out our full list of adventures. Do you or your teen have questions? Reach out to us. We can’t wait to hear from you!



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