DEAR HARRIETTE: My 10-year-old daughter is going away to her first sleepaway camp. She is so excited about going, but I'm nervous and worried about letting my baby girl go away for a week. I listen to the news and hear about inappropriate behavior from camp counselors. Maybe it's just my nerves, but I want to know how I can ensure that my child will be taken care of while she is at sleepaway camp. -- Mama Bear, Memphis, Tenn.
DEAR MAMA BEAR: Firsts are often tough, especially for parents, so the feelings you are having are normal. However, you can take measures to ensure that your child is safe.
Visit the camp before you send your child there. Talk to the administrative staff about the activities, the process for screening counselors, the procedures regarding campers' physical and emotional safety, and the way campers are taught to reach out in case of emergency. Ask specifically about sexual indiscretion and whether there have been any incidents of abuse at the camp.
Talk to your administrative contact about your child and any idiosyncrasies she may have. Find out when parents can visit. Then relax. Don't make your daughter nervous about her experience. Empower her with an understanding of how camp works. Tell her that she will have a great time and that you will come immediately if she needs you.
DEAR HARRIETTE: It's been nearly one year since our mother's passing, and I would like for my family to do something special in her honor. My mother was a big fan of "Benji movies," and she loved to eat butter-pecan ice cream. My mother really enjoyed the simple things in life, and I would like to do something fun and filled with laughter. Do you have any suggestions for how we can celebrate her life? -- Mama's Boy, Chicago
DEAR MAMA'S BOY: The one-year anniversary is a pivotal time for a family. I'm sure that you have many fond memories of your mother, mixed with continued pangs of loss.
Your idea for celebrating her life with the people who were important to her is a good one. Why not invite family members and loved ones to come over for movie night and memories of your mom? You may want to ask guests to bring a favorite dish and/or a story about your mother. That way, everyone has a vested interest in the evening.
Play one of the movies that your mother enjoyed and pause it for conversation, storytelling and camaraderie. Serve her favorite foods, including that butter-pecan ice cream. Provide a few pens and blank books, and invite loved ones to write down memories of your mother. Cherish her memory.