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My son is in sixth grade and wants to go to overnight camp this summer.  My husband is against the idea. He thinks it’s unnecessary and that camp has just become another expensive trend. I think it’s a great idea since we stay home for the summer and this will allow him to get the fresh air and freedom (elements I believe are necessities for a boy that age) that he misses out on by staying in the sweltering city – Do you agree?

Thank you for your question. First of all, just hearing the word “camp” helped me forget the frigid weather and reminded me that summer is a season that still exists.

What you asked touches on a number of factors. Like all questions that are submitted, I will go with the information given to me, which is inevitably limited based on the nature of this column. There are a number of thoughts that should be taken into account when making this decision. We will try to touch on each of them.

Let’s start with the question of how your child feels. Is he the one asking to go? Does it mean a lot to him? Will he be okay staying home? What are most of his friends doing? If he’s been begging to go, and it’s something that’s really important to him, this must be taken into account. But if he’s not that motivated to go, I’m not sure if the trade-off of causing stress in the home with your spouse is worth the battle.

What about finances? I think it makes a big difference in terms of how much of a financial stress this will cause in the family. If it will pose some financial pressure, are there extra expenses you, your child, or the family could cut back on that would make it more affordable? Or are things really tight and it would pose a significant burden? Making decisions that impose strong amounts of financial stress on a family can sometimes cause more harm than good. That being said, staying home isn’t free, and it would be important to calculate the exact financials in taking this into account. Are there ways for your son to contribute, such as helping around the house or taking a part-time job? Perhaps it makes more sense for him to stay home with some extra funds at his disposal, which will make his city stay more enjoyable. Are we talking about a half summer a whole summer? Of course, that’s a natural compromise that should be considered.

Another important factor is what his main group of friends is doing. I strongly believe that the school we send our children to and the friends they associate with creates the norm of what our children will expect. It is not easy for a child to be around friends that have certain standards and for them to be the exception. Of course, in certain instances, we can’t go along with what others are doing “just because”, such as when we are dealing with something not financially viable or harmful to our child. As a general rule though, we want our children to be able to fit in with their friends without feeling like outcasts.

Another point to consider is your husband’s experience growing up and how that might shape his views.  Did he go to camp? Did he like it? Was his family able to afford it? Were they a family that believed in camp or were they against it? Many times our own childhood experiences are the most influential factors in how we make decisions with our own children. You need to ask yourself the same questions. Did you go to camp? What was it like for you? How do you think your past experiences influence how you feel today? There are typically no black and white or right and wrong answers here. Our job is to choose what we feel is best based on our individual circumstances and then to give it our all to make it work out in the best way possible. One of the most important concepts when making a decision is to realize that rarely is it the actual choice that determines the “success” or “failure” of the outcome; rather, it’s our commitment to that choice that will most strongly influence the outcome of the decision. If your son does end up staying home, there are ways to increase his socialization and experiences so he can benefit from some of the things you brought up. And if he goes to camp, there are also ways of budgeting (i.e. having him work to chip in for the cost), which can ease the financial strain and ensure that he won’t become spoiled or develop unrealistic expectations.

Good luck with this decision, and I hope everyone will have an enjoyable summer.  

If it ever comes

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