Our nine-year-old daughter has her heart set on going to camp in North Carolina for three weeks this summer, but whenever she goes to spend the night with a friend, she always calls us with a stomachache. Should we let her go to camp or not?
Barbara: I think you should let her go to camp. I think she will be just fine. You might want to reconsider the duration of the camp experience; perhaps talk with her about cutting it down to one week. Then, if she handles that well, next year let her go for a couple of weeks.
Dennis: Make sure your daughter understands your expectations of her. For example, discuss what will happen if she feels homesick. Will she be able to come home? Will she be able to call and talk to you about how she feels? If you are not going to come pick her up if she gets homesick, make sure she understands that. Interact with her in advance of the actual camping experience so that when she feels homesick, you will have already helped her deal with it.
The second thing I would do is have some letters waiting for her when she arrives at camp, within the first 24 hours if possible. If phone use is allowed, make a phone call to cushion the impact of camp, but then back out. This can be a time in your child’s life when she can begin to wean herself from her parents and begin to form her own identity.
The experience may be far more difficult for parents than for children. Mom and Dad are sitting at home wondering, What’s going on? I miss my son. I miss my daughter. I can’t believe they are growing up. They are no longer here. The real issue is the parents who have to cry themselves to sleep at night, not the campers.
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