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Child Caring

What if she doesn't want to go to camp?

Hi Barbara & readers,

Last winter, my 10 yo daughter and her friend decided to go to 2-week over night camp together. You can guess what's happened. They aren't best friends anymore. My daughter hasn't yet said she "won't" go to camp -- it's not until mid July so it isn't really on her radar screen yet -- but she hasn't mentioned this girl in months as someone she's hangs with at school and hasn't included her in any plans. When I casually asked her how "Mary" is, she said I dunno and moved on, but I worry about what's coming. We are all paid for, there's no going back on this! Do I force her to go if it comes to that? PS. The girls were in day camp together last summer.

From: UhOh, Central Jersey

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Dear UhOh,

Sure, it's possible the girls could decide they aren't as psyched about going to camp together as they once were. But the facts also speak to a different scenario: Maybe she sees Mary as her perfect camp friend, someone whose friendship she's happy to resume when camp time arrives. Kids often compartmentalize friendships. Just because the girls have drifted apart doesn't mean they couldn't be friends again; doesn't mean she's forgotten she made a commitment to Mary; and certainly doesn't mean she will say she won't go to camp.

Sometime in the next few weeks, find ways to get her to talk about last year at camp: pull out photos, souvenirs, anecdotes etc that will remind her of the fun she and Mary had. Avoid projecting your "Hey you're going to camp with Mary and you haven't talked to her in months...." worries. Pre-camp, suggest making a plan with Mary so they can re-unite. Expect to be pleasantly surprised.

If things do go south and they aren't happy to be going together again, this shouldn't be a forcing issue, it should be a discussion. A typical 10-year-old understands that decisions like this are not reversible. Don't put the option of not going on the table. I suspect she won't either. Instead, remind her of the reasons other than Mary that she chose this camp. Talk about what internal resources she has if she gets to camp and doesn't want to be with Mary: how she has made new friends in the past, how she can talk to the counselor. As parents, we tend to shy away from talking about "what-if" things go wrong scenarios because we're afraid we will plant ideas. That's not giving our kids very much credit. In fact, talking in advance about possible problems in a What-would-you-do-if kind of way gives kids coping mechanisms and helps them learn to problem-solve for themselves.