Rabbi Ross. My 10-year-old son is refusing to go to camp this summer. I offered him either sleepaway or day camp, but he says he doesn’t like camp and he wants to stay home and “veg”. He’s an easy-going boy, and I can’t imagine him making any trouble, I’m just worried he’ll be bored. I’ll also be saving a few thousand dollars in camp tuition which is nice. Is it a problem if I let him stay home?
Most children look forward to camp all year long. However, there are always those kids who don’t enjoy the camp experience at all. It might be an aversion to sports, making new friends, or even becoming homesick. These kids don’t want to hear about it, and this frequently includes day camps.
It might be frustrating for you to have your child home, nonetheless, I don’t believe that any child should be forced to go to camp. Having said that, however, before you allow your son to stay home for the summer, you need to set up guidelines and conditions.
First and foremost, boys should spend some part of each day learning with a chavrusa or tutor. Although many summer camps tout their advanced and superior learning programs, I do believe that the basic goal in most camps is to ensure that each boy is prepared for the new school year. Therefore, you need to make sure that your child keeps up as well.
Ideally, this tutor should learn with your son for an hour every day. If he can only come a few days a week, that’s also fine. It would be beneficial to arrange for the learning sessions to take place in a shul or yeshiva, to demonstrate to your son that learning is serious. If this is not possible, make sure that the learning takes place in a quiet room, free from all distractions. He should always be dressed properly and have Davened before learning.
The second condition should be regarding friends. One huge benefit of camp, is that kids have an opportunity to develop and mature socially through interacting with others. You don’t want your son to miss out on this experience. As such, you should set up a playdate or outing with friends at least twice a week. They can spend time playing in someone’s backyard or you can take them bowling one day. It doesn’t necessarily matter in whose house they get together, or what they do. The point is, he must remain social.
The third condition should be setting up a schedule or routine. Your son is going to have a lot of free time in his day. This could be the very reason why he doesn’t want to go to camp, since some kids need time to be free and explore without being subjected to a rigid schedule. However, he needs to create (with your help) a basic itinerary for each day. You don’t want every day to become pajama day or iPad day. He can go on a bug hunt, play with legos, bike ride or anything else. He just can’t hang out in the house all day.
The final condition should be that he can’t tell you, “I’m bored.” Those words can drive any parent crazy. Although you will gladly help him arrange activities, it’s not your problem if he has nothing to do.
I’ve included some hints to help you make an informed decision.
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.