21 answers

Should I Let My Son "Drop Out" of Camp?

Hi Moms,
I am the mother of a 5 year old son who has always had a bit of an issue with socializing with other kids. He is on the shy side and has a difficult time making new friends. I am a SAHM, but have had him in clubs, groups, classes and so forth since he was 2. He did well this past year in Prek and made a few good friends (they initiated the relationship). I now have him in summer camp 3 days a week and he is not doing so well there. He says he does not like it and does not play with or speak to the other kids. Each day when I pick him up, he tells me that he tried hard to hold it in, but ended up crying during the day b/c he wanted to go home. This shocked me b/c he never cried when he was in nursery school or prek.
It breaks my heart every day when I drop him off and I really want to stop sending him. I am concerned, however, that by allowing him to "drop out" I am sending a message that if he does not like something or if something makes him uncomfortable, he can give up. On the other hand, camp is supposed to be fun. Why make him go (and pay good money) for something that he is not enjoying? My husband says he should "suck it up" and stick it out. What do you moms think?

I appreciate your advice and suggestions!!

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Featured Answers

I would talk to him to find out exactly what is bothering him, and if you can't seem to help him find a workable solution, I would let him drop out, and have a conversation with him about why he'll stop going to camp. He is only 5; why have him live with anxiety that is really unnecessary? I think it just makes a more anxious kid. Do we finish everything we start? Many people can say that they haven't finished something at least once, and that they're OK (i.e. not "wimps").

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He will have other days to learn how not to quit. It is my thought that if he is unhappy, it would be great that he learns that you will be supportive of finding out WHY he is unhappy, and learning to either overcome it, or step back until he is more comfortable.

Good luck,

More Answers

My vote is to drop out of this camp and use the money doing things with him that he enjoys.
He needs to experience a happy childhood to balance out all the sucking up he'll have to do in the world during his life time....he's got plenty of time to learn how to deal with that sort of thing. It doesn't come from force, it comes from maturity and understanding what ones choices and options are.
As he develops different interests and gets involved with them, he'll meet other children with the same interests.... there are plenty of specialty camps that might interest him when he is older that he might really enjoy as well...
However, make sure he does have play dates with others his own age. Try to get him together more often with the children who have already befriended him...he'll learn more about developing friendships through them. Shyness isn't a bad thing...It might take him longer to make friendships but he'll probably pick them out more carefully as he is growing up.

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You mention that "you have him in..." the groups and clubs. The committment issue referenced in several responses is irrelevant if he did not insist on this camp. We has this situation with our 6 yr old who is also shy. I found out from observing and conversations that the program had little structure and some really boisterous kids.

1 mom found this helpful

I would talk to him to find out exactly what is bothering him, and if you can't seem to help him find a workable solution, I would let him drop out, and have a conversation with him about why he'll stop going to camp. He is only 5; why have him live with anxiety that is really unnecessary? I think it just makes a more anxious kid. Do we finish everything we start? Many people can say that they haven't finished something at least once, and that they're OK (i.e. not "wimps").

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with your husband. By letting him "quit" your sending the message that if you can't do it just stop. Rather then him trying he will know that he can just walk away. Maybe talk to the cousellors and see if they can get another kid to include him in games and such. Or maybe try to help him "act out" how he would talk to another child by pretending with him and staging with him what to say. If you give him those kinds of lessons it may help to boost his self-esteem and prove to himself that he can do it. I'd sit down with him at night and ask him "so is there any other boys you think you'd like to play with at camp?" "How do you think you'd talk to them?" And if he doesn't know, show him. Maybe try this for several days. He could even start by asking someone at the craft table to "pass the glue", or complement them on their craft project. I'd make him stick it out. These are skills he needs to learn. Try as we might, but your not always going to be there to hold his hand. It may help to teach your son the skills he needs to make friends. Just like you'd teach him to tie his shoes.

I would say keep sending him. That's a huge part of the problem with our world these days, the kids are ruling US. I remember when my parents used to make me stick things out because I signed up for them and made a commitment, and would not allow me to quit and I'm thankful for that today. Granted, your child is only 5, but it's a good age to start instilling good commitment ethics.

Try to get him to open up about what makes him so sad, and help him overcome it. If he's just having a hard time being social, then he needs to keep going even though it's heartbreaking for you. It certainly won't get any better by him staying home. Kids are tough, he'll survive.

Just my 2 cents.

Hi E.
If he has always done fairly well after arriving places you left him. What is his problem now? Are the kids older, younger? Are any of his old friends from school there? Do all the other kids know each other and leave him out? Does the adult make the kids comfortable? or uncomfortable? What has happened to cause this problem? Is the day too long comparing it to PreK?
You say that he doesn't talk to kids, but what does the adult say? Does he think you are missing him? or maybe wants him to miss you?
My advise, put on your happiest face, saying he is going to have a great time, and you are going to be (cleaning the house or anything he hates doing) til he gets home. Send him off with joy in your heart. Unless you have reason to believe there is a problem, then pull him because of the problem not because of his behavior. You husband doesn't want him to cry over everything, and that does make some sense. Kids are usually proud of themselves for achieving what they didn't think they could. If the day is longer perhaps you could pick him up early. Always I had to drop mine off early so that the kids joined them instead of running in late to have all the kids already partnered up, and that too worked well.
God bless you
K. SAHM married 38 years -- adult children 38,33, and twins 19

I have been there all too often. There is something in particular that is the issue. It took me forever to find out things like it was lunch becasue he was too shy to ask for help opening an item or swim because when he got re dressed his sock was scrunched. or it may be particular child or activity that causes him anxiety. One child hated camp later found out due to swim , they stuck it out and the following year she loves it! I would not quit but keep trying to figure out what it is and have the camp and counselors work with you. It really is more specific than just camp.

Hi E., I don't know that a five year old needs to "suck it up" for an optional activity that is supposed to be fun. Have you spoken with the camp director or counsellors? If your child is crying everyday, someone should have let you know this (other than your child). They really should be doing something to assist a child who is not having a good time there. I would speak with the director (and his counselors, if they are at least college age). Rather than giving the message of, if something isn't perfect you can drop out, give the message of, if something isn't great, we will try to help make it better for you.
Good luck

I read the other replies first before I responded.
You situation is classic first child, SAHM, your kid tells you one thing,but I bet if you spied on him you would find out another.

My daugther told me that she did not speak to anyone or play with anyone when I first sent her to day camp. I call the camp director and went there when she did not know and saw her playing with kids and laughing and running her little heart out etc. And as soon as she got into the car she was crying and telling me that she was tired (she was) and what a hard day she had - (she had) - how no one would play with her (one girl she desperately wanted to play with did not play with her she was shy) - everybody else did.

And you know what I did?
I gave her kisses,ice cream, a warm bath, let her watch her favorite cartoon (half hour only) and felt happiness when she fell asleep at 7:30pm on the dot for the entire summer.

How is he going to learn to talk to kids if he doesn't stay and talk to kids? How are you going to walk if you don't walk? And a happy childhood is now definded by giving a child everything they want and making everything easy for them. If he does not want to go to camp next year, well find.

Call the director take a look around camp without your son knowing and if everything is find I agree with your husband and let him suck it up.

Let him stop going to camp. He's only 5 and camp is all together different than an extra curricular activity. Camp can be very overwhelming for a little 5 year old. Not only does he have to try to make friends, he's also there for a longer time period, he has to deal with an environment he may not be used to, (outside all day vs. outside just a few hours) doing activities he may not be as co-ordinated as the other children, (hiking, swimming, sports, etc.) it doesn't appear as clean looking as a day care, (ground and rocks to sit on instead of chairs.) etc. He will probably be more willing to go to camp when he's older. As for shy...He'll socialize when he's ready. It's not a good idea to push socialization.

I'd try to look into it more to see the whole picture - talk to the staff and see what their take is on it. See if you can observe w/o your son knowing. See if you can get your son to talk about it a little further. If after doing more research you feel your son is not happy there then let him stop going. Who cares. Is he going to grow up and be a horrible adult b/c he didnt go to 3 days of summer camp when he was 5 years old. Save that battle for things HE HAS TO DO and lessons that NEED to be learned. Oh and I agree, let him drop out then use the money to do things with him that he enjoys - its the summer - let it be carefree and fun! I am 35 years old - I didn't grow up with summer camp and structured activities constantly - except for sports once I started school - I remember summers as being FUN & Relaxed. If you don't work then give that to your son. He's FIVE. Maybe when confronted with actually allowing him to quit he might change his mind if its not really all that bad.

Have you spoken to the camp counselors? Perhaps they have him doing things that he doesnt like or isnt able to do. Or maybe he is have fun, but would rather be home, so he tells you he doesnt like it. If the counselors tell you he really is crying and miserable I would keep him home. He is really too young to have to "suck it up".

I would talk to the camp counelors. If he is having
problems, hopefully they can work with you and your son.
I would encourage him to go.

Hi E.,

Has he told you what he doesn't like about camp. Is it he because he doesn't know anyone there or is it just not fun for him. Day camp can be difficult because sometimes the staff are young teens who are not experienced enough to know how to engage shy children like a preschool teacher would. I own a preschool and this same situation just happened with me. One of the mom's from my school put her 5 year old in the town camp so she can be with her older sister. After 1 week she called me to see if her little one could have her spot back. She was crying everyday because she didn't know anyone and just couldn't adjust. Her older daughter was fine because she had friends from school there. This little girl is extremely social and has been in daycare since she was 3 months old so socializing was not the issue it was the camp. I would see if you could maybe talk to the director and see if they are willing to have one of the counselors help your son to interact more with the other kids. I know it is breaking your heart to see your son go through this and to tell you the truth even though you probably should try to get him to work through it I don't think I could watch my child miserable if he really didn't have to be. Have you tried having some play dates with kids from his preschool so he is socializing with children his own age? Having him suck it up is really not going to help him if he is really as shy as you say he is. This camp may not be the type of thing he enjoys if he is not social. What other interests does he have. Does he like art, sports, music, etc. maybe you could find a different type of camp with something more specific to his interests. I think I would tell him I will make a deal with you. If you give it one more week and really try hard and still don't like it we can find something else you like better. This way you are not using negative words like you can quit, or you don't have to go any more. Hopefully he will realize that he has to put forth some effort and if this is not for him then he just can't stay home he has to find something else he likes. Make him a part of the decision by letting him choose what he would like to do while sending the message that he has to do something he cannot just sit at home for summer. Good luck!!

Why don't you either shorten the day (pick him up earlier so he doesn't have to stay so long) or shorten the length of time he is in the camp (if you signed up for two weeks, make him finish one.) You could tell him that something came up to prevent him from attending--wouldn't even have to let him know that you were responding to his wanting to stop if you're worried that it would set up a negative pattern.

I used to think they should 'suck it up' but in looking back, there are a lot of things that are unpleasant that can't be avoided, and if something that is supposed to be pleasant isn't, why continue? I don't think camp is what it's cracked up to be anyway--seems to me that the unruly kids rule in those situations.


I am the mom who lets their kids sign up for things and makes them stick it out through their commitment....that being said how long is camp??(2 weeks...all summer)I mean I would definitely speak with the counselors and coordinators and talk about the issues...it could just be that it's not the same schedule or like in my sons case too unorganized/lax(these lil ones need to know what's going on)...then if it's an all summer long program set a deadline....in two weeks if you still aren't happy, we'll stop going...I mean lets not ruin all summer :) I have a rule that if my kids sign up for a sport then they must continue out the season because their team is depending on them, but no one is going to suffer if your kids quits camp....someone may actually benefit if his spot open up and someone who is on a waiting list and wants to be there can attend...and he's not to lil to explain these things too(on a simpler level, but explain your decision and he'll understand)...goodluck!!!!

My daughter was the same way when she was younger. She was my first born and did not like to be seperated from me. She got used to school because the teachers were nice and experienced but she did not do well in camp or even on a playdate away from home or babysitters for that matter. I had a hard time leaving her upset and crying before I even reached the camp and ended up pulling her back as I also was a stay at home Mom. Enjoy your kids when they are young, they are put into so many organized activities from a young age up until they leave us for good, spend time with him and don't feel bad, organize a playdate with another Mom you know or do things with him on your own. My daughter is now 10 and one of the most outgoing kids in her grade, she wants to sign up for every club etc there is and she is very social. Good luck to you!

Hi E.,

I can certainly understand this situation must be extremely difficult.

Have you talked with the councelors at the camp about your son's day, what did he do, who did he play with, what activites did he like/dislike? Usually, camps have structured activies, is he participating in these, or is he too shy and prefers to sit on the sidelines? I think you may need to get some answers before making your decision.

How long has he been going to this camp? If it's only the 1st or 2nd week, maybe you need to give it a little more time. If this is the 3rd or 4th week, maybe it's time to call it quits.

Good luck.

I'm in the stop camp, um, camp. If you had no choice but to have him in camp, such as working or what not, it would be another story-he'd have no choice but to "suck it up" but that doesn't sound like it's the case. Also if he had chronic problems w. this sort of thing, but again he did connect w. other kids in preK, so he's certainly capable of it. Sounds like he just doesn't like it and you should honor that.
Not sure about you but there was a lot I didn't like about being a kid, such as not being able to make my own decisions. From an early age, I knew, really knew, what I wanted, but I didn't have the power to make that happen. Your son might have a social problem, or he might be very self aware. Not everyone is super social. I say don't force him to do something he's saying he doesn't want to do "just because".
However I do agree w. the other posts that you should talk to his camp counselors as well.

He will have other days to learn how not to quit. It is my thought that if he is unhappy, it would be great that he learns that you will be supportive of finding out WHY he is unhappy, and learning to either overcome it, or step back until he is more comfortable.

Good luck,

speak with his head counselor or group leader. let them know that he needs some extra
TLC and that he isn't enjoying his summer experience. they should be receptive and give your little boy the extra attention he deserves. also, call there from time to time to see how he's doing throughout the day & ask his counselors to call you weekly with some feedback on how he's adjusting. best of luck.

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