Summer Camp & Independence | Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Summer Camp & Independence

Well it is summer again and if your kids are lucky, they are preparing for summer camp. Our family favorite is the old-fashioned camp - crafts, campfires, silly songs, talent shows, mess halls, pools, and ropes courses.

Preparation means writing your last name on everything, deciding which clothes and towels you never need to use again, buying aloe vera gel for sunburns, biodegradable soap, Costco sized sunscreen, enough toiletries for everyone to take some, and my favorite, bug sprays - from 99% deet for spraying at the bottom of pants and around the edges of bedding to 30% deet for arms. legs, and scalps!

If this is your child's first time at camp, last summer's post about preparing your child for being away from home might be useful. If your child is a seasoned camper, they are probably just excited, but I encourage you not to let them pack by themselves. I cannot tell you how many times I say, "are you packed?" and the answer is "yes," and then I march in, ask for the packing list, and as my child puts stuff in the suitcase, I start down the list, "14 pairs of underwear," "check," "14 pairs of socks," "check," "7 pairs of pants," "check," "7 pairs of shorts," "check," "2 towels," "oops," "sleeping bag," "oh I'll get that," and it goes down hill from there!

"Packed" seems to be a relative term to teenagers, so beware! Nothing will help you worry less than knowing you watched the important things go into the suitcase! Remember if they are traveling alone to get to the airport early, request a gate pass to walk them to the gate through security, and have them show you their passport, boarding tickets, money, etc... before you leave them.

Apart from knowing they have the "things" they need, if you are the parent of a junior or senior in high school, preparing for your teen being away this summer may bring up some anxiety about how close you are to having your teen leave home for college. As teens get older, they also are gone for longer periods of time, which adds to our anxiety. Try hard not to let it show - teens need our support and encouragement - and they may already be nervous.

For parents of the older teens trying to get your kids ready for two to four weeks away at camp, I send peaceful blessings! I know this phase of parenting is tough, but remember, this is our job - we are supposed to prepare them to be independent and happy adults. Helping them manage being away from home for a couple of weeks is a good trial for leaving home and being away for months at a time.

You can send them with the required summer reading, laundry soap and money for free time, remind them to take their vitamins and floss their teeth, and not lose their retainer, but then, you sit back and let them grow up. They will forget the bug spray until they get bit, forget the sunscreen until they burn, choose not to floss for a while, and forget to sort the clothes when doing laundry, but they need to learn.

They will also miss you, even if they never say it, so remember to plan ahead and send letters so they get them during camp - but no pictures - that might make them cry!

Have fun and remember to ask them to teach you a silly camp song when they return - next year you can hum it while they are gone!

photo credit: boltron-
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.