Helicopter parents require their own camp counsellors

Filed under: Tweens, Teens, In The News, Extreme Childhood

With all the hand wringing and obsession over children, it's amazing that summer camp has survived the Helicopter Parent Era. But counselors and cabins and bunk mates are still available, but there have been some changes.

Many summer camps have had to add a counselor to the staff in order to handle the calls and emails of frantic parents concerned that the tone of the child's letter was melancholy or who wasn't smiling a picture at the camp's password-protected site, ironically that created for the purposes of reassuring parents.

"I have parents calling and saying they saw their child in the background of a picture of other children and he didn't look happy, or his face looked red, has he been putting on enough suntan lotion, or I haven't seen my child and I have seen a lot of other children, is my child so depressed he doesn't want to be in a picture," said Jay Jacobs, who runs Timber Lake Camp in Shandaken, N.Y.

Another tactic parents have employed in order to remain in close contact with their children is helping their kids smuggle in cellphones, an item commonly forbidden at summer camp. Norman Friedman, a consultant who does training at nearly a dozen camps finds this parental behavior alarming.

"They'll give their child two cellphones so if they get caught with the first one, 'Just give it up and you'll have the second one to talk to me,' " he said. "That's widespread, not isolated. I call it fading parental morality. What they're doing is entering into delinquent behaviors with their children. And what kind of statement is that to a child?"

It's common and understandable to miss your kids when they are gone for extended periods of time, but in order to raise independent, self-sufficient children, it's important to step back let them have their own experiences without a parent standing by. Summer camp is a great and safe place for these experiences to start. It's disturbing to hear that parents are ruining that for some kids.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.