Social Issues at Camp

Q: My 14-year-old daughter went to sleepaway camp last summer with a close friend from her class. This friend was not very loyal in camp. She began to make new friends (which is fine), but started to ignore my daughter (who, she felt, wasn’t “cool” enough). My daughter was very hurt. She was floundering, trying to find new girls to be with every few days — and didn’t really find a place for herself. She still likes camp itself, so we registered her for this summer — but she is worried this will happen again.

Since last year, she has become friendly with another girl in her class, but the relationship is not necessarily a healthy one. This girl looks up to my daughter, is clingy and is clearly not on an equal footing with her in many ways. They will be in the same bunk. I’m afraid this relationship will keep my daughter from branching out and befriending others. I begged my daughter to try another camp in order to make new friends. Since nearly all the girls in her class are going to this camp, which is loosely affiliated with their school, she feels uncomfortable going anywhere else. I understand her feelings — but people do go to other camps for various reasons.

I thought that perhaps she could just skip sleepaway camp altogether this year. However, she plans to be a junior counselor for the other month, and doesn’t want to do that job for two months.

What do you think my daughter should do, and what’s my role as a mother to guide her in this area?

A: If your daughter likes the actual camp experience, suggesting that she stay home for both months is not a growth-producing option.

It’s hard to know which camp is a better choice. Do any girls she knows attend the other camp you’re considering? If your daughter has general social issues (which is difficult to know from your letter), going to a new camp with new girls may be an overwhelming challenge rather than a positive move. Does your daughter have issues making and keeping friends in school? Is it possible that she did not feel comfortable making new friends in camp last year because she is a self-doubting individual and continually questioned the people and their relationship with her?

However, if the girls at this new camp are more her “style” (as she had trouble fitting in with her peers in camp last year), it might be a positive change. Perhaps last year’s camp had more cliques, and girls who were not part of a group felt isolated.

How does your daughter feel about being in camp with the classmate with whom she shares an unequal relationship? Does she feel that she will not be able to make new friends due to the dependent relationship of this classmate?

As a mother, opening your daughter’s mind to questioning the pros and cons of this decision is the best you can do to help her.

Your daughter wants to return to this camp; perhaps she feels that the camp’s merits outweigh her fears of making new friends or having to have a “best friend.” Being honest with oneself is a great tool in life, and your daughter now has a chance to experience this self-discovery.

Hatzlachah rabbah!