By Heidi Stevens
Your ‘tween wants to pack her own bags for sleep-away camp. Good or bad idea?
Parent advice (from our panel of staff contributors):
As long as you have no reason to worry that she is trying to take along contraband, this is a great idea. It shows she is maturing, and if she forgets something, it is a wonderful learning experience. I am sure I would not be able to stop myself from giving her a list of “don’t forget” (a jacket, bug spray, medicine, extra socks) and “don’t take” (valuables, especially electronics and jewelry) items. I would explain that it is simply from experience that I am doing so, not that she isn’t old enough for this task.
– Dodie Hofstetter
Great idea, provided she lays out everything for inspection/approval first. Asking her to draw up a “to bring” list (I still do this before I pack) is a good idea too.
– Phil Vettel
Not to get all Dr. Phil on you, but consider that she might be asking to pack herself to gain some control over this scary separation from mom, dad and the familiar. Sure, she can pack herself. And then you can add all the stuff that the camp puts on the ridiculous list of “musts.”
– Ellen Warren
Let her pack but be sure to provide backup, says pediatrician Alanna Levine, spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and author of “Raising a Self-Reliant Child” (Ten Speed Press).
“It’s pretty tough on the child if you completely remove yourself from the packing,” Levine says. “You don’t want a situation where they get to camp with one pair of shorts for six weeks, and you’re saying, ‘Well, you learned your lesson! You won’t do that next year!’ ”
At the same time, your child probably knows better than you what she wants to bring along. And letting her take responsibility for what she brings will pay off in dividends.
“I’m a big advocate of working with your child but taking a back seat,” Levine says.
Let her pack a first round with the requisite camp checklist close at hand. Do a quick check of her choices and ask friendly questions about items she may have forgotten. (“Are your favorite shorts in the dryer? How can we remember to grab those?” “How many days worth of socks will you need?”)
“I tend to encourage parents to do this with the regular morning routine too,” Levine says. “Instead of saying, ‘Did you brush your teeth?’ ‘Did you pack your bag?,’ ask ‘What are all the things you need to do this morning?’ It gets your child going through the mental checklist instead of waiting for you to nag them.”
The packing process may take a little longer, but it’s time well spent, she says.
“It’s not easy for parents to fight the urge to get in there and intervene,” she says. “It’s quicker to just do it for a child. But in the long run it’s actually a big time saver if you can sit on your hands and bite your tongue and let your child do the packing from an early age. When your child is ready to go off to college, she won’t need as much intervention and help to get out the door each day.”
Have a solution? Your 18-year-old texts you for help dozens of times per day. Is this the new normal? Find “The Parent ‘Hood” page on Facebook, where you can post your parenting questions and offer tips and solutions for others to try.