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My new Scout's going to camp but freaking out

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I agree with small steps. Also, be okay if the small steps work but the final big step doesn't.

Is he making friends in the troop? And maybe they live close by? Invite them over and do something fun. Have a sleep over at your house. Hopefully that will lead to a sleep over at the other boy's house. Go with him on weekend campouts. If you have to, go with him to summer camp (but don't tell him that now).

You want to be firm with him and that's great, but maybe start with some little things to be firm with so you'll have a history to show him that he is getting better at this independence stuff.

Is it possible that part of his pushing back has to do with your viewing him as "needing" this? Maybe he doesn't see the whole of you, including the part that wants to see him grow. Maybe he just sees the "mom is gonna make me do this and I have no idea why because I'm scared." Respect his fears. I'm not saying give in to them, just let him know you understand how hard this is for him. Ask him what the baby steps are. If he sees progress and you helping him with it then he'll listen to you, and that's all any parent wants. If you don't believe me wait until he's a teenager. :)

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Have you discussed this with his Scoutmaster? Some leaders will take it as a challenge to make sure your son have the greatest week of his life.

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Attending summer camp as the first trip for most new Scouts is daunting... news boys, away from home, etc.  There is a good chance that if he attends some weekend trips between now and summer, he will be more inclined to attend summer camp.  Except in cases where special supervision or support is required, parents should not be attending trips.  The situation here does not seem very special, but as others commented...  input from the counselor and/or Scoutmaster should be helpful.

 

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3 of my 4 kids experience abnormal levels of anxiety. Anxiety is its own beast and is not the same thing as "separation anxiety" which should resolve itself within 24 hours or so of arriving at camp.

You know your son better than anybody. Do NOT be afraid to attend camp with him this first time if that's what he needs. If you feel he really just needs the push, don't be afraid to do that either. But don't push him if you think it's just something you "should" do. Push him if, in your experience, you find those pushes actually help him grow. If you have found in the past that those pushes make him feel more anxious, it's probably better to just go ahead and go, so he sees it isn't so scary. Next year he'll be more familiar with the location, and with the other kids, and possibly even the staff. 

If you go to camp, perhaps volunteer to do something that will keep you busy, but still available if your son needs you. Maybe help in the kitchen, or supervise a merit badge station, or whatever. If your son's anxiety is too high he can hang out and help you with your task; and if he's feeling OK he can go around camp with his patrol and have fun. 

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Posted (edited)

Have you asked him what compromise would make him comfortable enough to go? 

 

Edited by PinkPajamas
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On 3/26/2019 at 9:27 PM, Liz said:

...Do NOT be afraid to attend camp with him this first time if that's what he needs. 

... If your son's anxiety is too high he can hang out and help you with your task; and if he's feeling OK he can go around camp with his patrol and have fun. 

Sorry Liz, but your Scoutmaster would be well served to keep you away from camp...and to keep away any other adult who has the misguided notion that they would be welcome in camp so that they could be there "his first time if that's what he needs."

No scout is well served by a parent in camp who can't, or won't, let her son try things and experience things on his own. It just ruins the camp experience for everyone and it undermines scouting's aims and methods (especially the patrol method, when you star counter-manding the instructions and leadership of the PL and SPL).  

Sure, you know your own son best...so if he really is so anxious that he couldn't function in a patrol environment, then leave him home for his first year or so in scouting so that he has time to grow as an individual and to learn enough self confidence that he doesn't NEED mom helicoptering over him.

If you are in camp so "he can hang out and help you with your task" then you are there for all the wrong reasons (and you really don't understand how summer camp works). Your role as an adult is to be in camp as a resource for the TROOP. As a scoutmaster, I would tell you that you are NOT welcome in camp if you aren't trained and you aren't there to help the scoutmaster, the SPL, and each and every scout in the troop.  And if you really think you're going to "let your son hang out and help you with your task" then I REALLY don't want you anywhere close to camp! Camp has scheduled activities and we expect the boys to take advantage of the opportunities that summer camp offers. One of the prime roles of adult scouters is to make sure the boys keep busy in their activities and that they are not sitting around idle in camp, and never, ever tagging along behind their mama like a 2-year old.

A troop needs some adult leaders. But they need adults who are there for the entire unit and who are there to help the kids find ways to solve their own problems and to become confident, competent young men. A troop most certainly does NOT need a mom who is there "for her kid", getting underfoot, giving bad advice, and making the troop adapt to her ways. Don't embarass the troop, your son, and yourself.

If you have an overly anxious child, do everyone a favor....stay home your first year.

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20 minutes ago, mrkstvns said:

Sorry Liz, but your Scoutmaster would be well served to keep you away from camp...and to keep away any other adult who has the misguided notion that they would be welcome in camp so that they could be there "his first time if that's what he needs."

No scout is well served by a parent in camp who can't, or won't, let her son try things and experience things on his own. It just ruins the camp experience for everyone and it undermines scouting's aims and methods (especially the patrol method, when you star counter-manding the instructions and leadership of the PL and SPL).  

Sure, you know your own son best...so if he really is so anxious that he couldn't function in a patrol environment, then leave him home for his first year or so in scouting so that he has time to grow as an individual and to learn enough self confidence that he doesn't NEED mom helicoptering over him.

If you are in camp so "he can hang out and help you with your task" then you are there for all the wrong reasons (and you really don't understand how summer camp works). Your role as an adult is to be in camp as a resource for the TROOP. As a scoutmaster, I would tell you that you are NOT welcome in camp if you aren't trained and you aren't there to help the scoutmaster, the SPL, and each and every scout in the troop.  And if you really think you're going to "let your son hang out and help you with your task" then I REALLY don't want you anywhere close to camp! Camp has scheduled activities and we expect the boys to take advantage of the opportunities that summer camp offers. One of the prime roles of adult scouters is to make sure the boys keep busy in their activities and that they are not sitting around idle in camp, and never, ever tagging along behind their mama like a 2-year old.

A troop needs some adult leaders. But they need adults who are there for the entire unit and who are there to help the kids find ways to solve their own problems and to become confident, competent young men. A troop most certainly does NOT need a mom who is there "for her kid", getting underfoot, giving bad advice, and making the troop adapt to her ways. Don't embarass the troop, your son, and yourself.

If you have an overly anxious child, do everyone a favor....stay home your first year.

Agreed

We always welcome LEADERS to be at camp and LEADERS who work within the troop matrix.  Parents are needed to drive and pickup from camp and wave at the parking lot, not be at camp for the week.

Some leader stories

  • Had one leader that was in camp for the week.  He came to me on Sunday and advised he felt it better to leave as his son kept coming to him for things and was not participating as he should, he came back later in the week and it worked out well
  • Had one leader not in camp but was coming to get one of his sons at camp for an event, the other son was first year and we knew it would be a tough week, seeing dad in camp could be trouble.  We worked out the pickup time so younger son was at activities and same with the return the next day.  
  • Was at summer camp and a scout had an issue in the middle of the night, the Scout came into the leader pod and found the leader at camp for the week and NOT his dad who was in the next tent
  • We had a conversation with a leader in camp who was way too focused on his kid, was sort of treating summer camp as father / son time and the other 1,000 Scouts and leaders were just in the area.  We assigned the leader some specific tasks that were not where his son was, ended up being a good week
  • Had a somewhat serious issue with a Scout at camp, his dad was one of the leaders, the dad left the site as we worked it out.  He stayed out of the site that afternoon and did not even speak with his son about the issue until he and I talked through it that evening and what the consequences of those actions would be.  
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8 hours ago, mrkstvns said:

If you have an overly anxious child, do everyone a favor....stay home your first year.

A youth with an actual anxiety disorder is not going to EVER going to get to go to camp if some accommodation isn't made for the first time. Staying home the first year just puts it off because now 2020 is the first year... and 2021... until the kid ages out and never makes it to camp at all. 

If we're talking about homesickness in the general realm of "normal" I totally agree with you. A lot of anxiety is normal and is best handled by either jumping in with both feet or waiting for another year of maturity to help the anxiety go away. Kids with anxiety disorders tend to have it get worse, not better, with age. The more experiences you can expose them to in a safe and positive environment early on, the more activities they'll be able to handle as they get older. 

I wasn't clear from the original post whether we are talking about a "nervous" kid or one with a disabling level of anxiety. My response is based on my own experience raising kids with actual anxiety disorders. Fortunately my kids did the whole cub scout thing and were already acclimated to camp by the time they were in a Troop, so they were fine going without me and when I went (which I did some years and not others) I wasn't there to support them, but just to be another YPT-trained warm body or whatever it is that they make adults attend camp at all for. The secret I found to getting them more independence is to do whatever was necessary to make them comfortable the first time, and usually within a few hours they were off and running on their own. But in situations where that wasn't possible, they often just missed out entirely and weren't able to overcome their anxiety long enough to get started. I think it took us three times (three years running) of waking up the morning of the 50-mile backpacking trip (which I could NOT go on) before I was able to get my oldest child to get out of the car and actually leave with the troop in spite of a debilitating anxiety attack. 

The important thing here is to make a decision about whether the child actually NEEDS a crutch to get started, or whether the child NEEDS to just be pushed. Or, I suppose, needs another year to shake it off; but depending on the kid that could mean never going to camp because there always has to be a first time and it doesn't get easier for kids with real barriers.

 

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Just my 2 cents.

As Liz says above, it will always be his first time until it isn't. And the anxiety may grow each year it's not faced. So off to Camp he should go.

Should Mom go along? Leadership usually is thin on outings and chaperoning parents have almost always been welcome. So go and learn more for yourself. You being there won't actually allow him to deal with his anxiety though. You might be able to remind him of self-soothing techniques his therapist has given him but any of the adult leadership can be prepped and ready to do the same thing.

What will help most with his anxiety is familiarity in tasks. Knowing all the steps to each task he will be expected to perform while at camp. Now obviously he can't know the info to be taught in Merit badge classes, that would defeat their purpose. But you can find out from the SM what daily chores are required by the Scouts and then practice them with your son. Will he be sleeping in a cabin, Adirondack tent, or a troop tent? Find out which and teach him the skills to setting them up and taking them down. Packing and unpacking his personal supplies so he understands how his pack works. As a boy my troop would have races to see who could get their tents up in 5 minutes or less at each of the weekly meeting for the month before camp. The repetition made it less work at camp and served us better when setting up in the rain or dark on other camp-outs. The repetition for your son will create order and focus in his thoughts, pressing his anxiety to the back for awhile. Also prep for the social anxiety aspect. Have play-dates with other scouts his age that you know are going to camp. Have them bonding with each other so they act as a support system for each other while away. And if you include the other scouts in your camping prep, well the repetition wont hurt them either. Do verbal quizzes on the info while in the car or shopping.

Don't let him focus on the anxiety, only on the tasks he needs to do and how to do them.

Side note: work on his swimming skills. While all water craft require life jackets, most camps won't allow water craft use if you can't pass the swim test. Camp sucks if your swim tote stays hanging in the non-swimmer section. It may be embarrassing which can lead to stronger anxiety.

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Posted (edited)
On 3/26/2019 at 9:27 PM, Liz said:

Push him if, in your experience, you find those pushes actually help him grow.  

Scouting should be his activity. It should be something he wants to do. It shouldn't be something that he is pushed into doing because his parents feel it would be good for him. He gets plenty of that stuff in school.

As a scout leader, I sometimes got kids who didn't want to be there. Sometimes it was because the parents felt it would be good for them. Sometimes it was because the parents wanted a cheap babysitter. Either way, I felt used. I enjoyed sharing my hobbies with like-minded boys. I did not enjoy, or appreciate, being saddled with uncooperative, whiny kids who had no desire to join-in and cheerfully participate.

Pushing a kid into scouting does a disservice to both the boy and his scout leader.

 

 

Edited by David CO
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4 hours ago, Longhaired_Mac said:

 

What will help most with his anxiety is familiarity in tasks. Knowing all the steps to each task he will be expected to perform while at camp. Now obviously he can't know the info to be taught in Merit badge classes, that would defeat their purpose. But you can find out from the SM what daily chores are required by the Scouts and then practice them with your son. Will he be sleeping in a cabin, Adirondack tent, or a troop tent? Find out which and teach him the skills to setting them up and taking them down. Packing and unpacking his personal supplies so he understands how his pack works. As a boy my troop would have races to see who could get their tents up in 5 minutes or less at each of the weekly meeting for the month before camp. The repetition made it less work at camp and served us better when setting up in the rain or dark on other camp-outs. The repetition for your son will create order and focus in his thoughts, pressing his anxiety to the back for awhile. Also prep for the social anxiety aspect. Have play-dates with other scouts his age that you know are going to camp. Have them bonding with each other so they act as a support system for each other while away. And if you include the other scouts in your camping prep, well the repetition wont hurt them either. Do verbal quizzes on the info while in the car or shopping.

This is how I personally deal with anxiety. For most trips I go on I look the place up on Google Maps, see if someone has posted videos of what they did while there, see if there is a schedule of events or menu from years prior. I'll even visit the social media pages of the people running the event so I can recognize their faces. 

His therapist should really be able to help pinpoint the trigger for the anxiety, once you know that it'll be easier to make a plan to help him. 

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11 hours ago, David CO said:

Scouting should be his activity. It should be something he wants to do. It shouldn't be something that he is pushed into doing because his parents feel it would be good for him. He gets plenty of that stuff in school.

As a scout leader, I sometimes got kids who didn't want to be there. Sometimes it was because the parents felt it would be good for them. Sometimes it was because the parents wanted a cheap babysitter. Either way, I felt used. I enjoyed sharing my hobbies with like-minded boys. I did not enjoy, or appreciate, being saddled with uncooperative, whiny kids who had no desire to join-in and cheerfully participate.

Pushing a kid into scouting does a disservice to both the boy and his scout leader.

 

 

David CO, I get what you're saying, but my son loves Scouts. He is struggling with being away from me. We are meeting with his therapist tonight, and I am pretty sure I will attend half of camp (as a certified leader), with the understanding that I am there to serve the whole troop and that he can't be my shadow. The other half he is on his own. My goal is to raise an independent kid.

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On 3/25/2019 at 6:29 AM, ianwilkins said:

Start with an overnight? Or a weekend nearby?

Sorry for late reply....on vaca. I have thought about this.

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On 3/25/2019 at 9:23 AM, FireStone said:

Did he do any multi-night camping as a Cub Scout? I think this is where those cub camp summer sessions can really make a difference, doing 2-3 nights in camp with mom/dad, then maybe 5 nights as Webelos, so that by the time they cross over the idea of a week at summer camp is no big deal.

I know it's a little after-the-fact in this case, but just saying for others reading this thread. If you have a scout that might be anxious (as I do as well), I view the summer camp experience as a Cub as being a crucial transitional step into a Troop.

No overnight camp without me, but lots of pack campouts. I didn't think camping by himself was a big deal, since he vacations with his dad in a remote location each summer (no cell service). 

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On 3/25/2019 at 11:09 AM, SSScout said:

Independence.... 

Every kid goes thru some homesickness, to one degree or another, sometime. It may not be at camp, the grown  adult may not remember it or acknowledge it, but it was there. 

Your Scout needs understanding and folks to acknowledge and accept his feelings, his reticence. He needs to join with and get to know the Scouts in his Troop and to be reassured that, yeah, he is feeling low and lonely and misses … mom? Dad?  but it will get better.  Sometimes all it takes is another kid to say "yeah, I felt like that, but it does get better."  

Dealing with separation anxiety is tough.  Your boy must eventually learn and accept that 1) you and his home will be there when he gets back from wherever he goes. You WILL be there. 2) The divorce was NOT his fault, regardless of anything else he may have heard or decided. 3) Metaphorically, the world is his, he can take it in as slow or as fast as he wishes.  Fire burns, ice chills, the world reacts accordingly, it doesn't care who one is or where one comes from.  And Mom (Dad?) will be there when he gets back.... 

As he gains in life skills (doing his own laundry, cooking, putting stuff away so it will be there when he wants it the next time...) and Scouting will definitely help in this, he will come to realize  he needs mom for other stuff, and the tent he set up and slept in is just temporary fun, another experience to experience and have fun with.  

Should you become a Scout Leader?  Absolutely, and help the other Scouts over their humps, just as the other Scouters will (I hope and expect!)  help your boy over his.  Repeat after me:  "Why don't you go ask your Patrol Leader?" 

Find a book by Eric Sloane, "Diary of an Early American Boy".  If your young Scout is a reader, I think he would enjoy it.  If he likes doing with his hands,  find "A Reverence for Wood"  by Mr. Sloane.  Your boy may well become  a Troop Instructor.   

See you on the trail.

I love this. Very thoughtful response.

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