DEAR HARRIETTE: My 13-year-old daughter just got home from camp, where she had a great time. I did learn something disturbing, though: One of the girls was caught cutting herself in the bathroom and had to be sent home. It turns out that several of the girls have tried cutting their wrists bit by bit over time. I was shocked.
I don’t think that this behavior occurs at my daughter’s school. When I asked her if she has seen other girls doing this before, at camp or at school, my daughter said no. I’m worried about sending my daughter back to this camp, even though she has gone there since she was little. I’m afraid of what she is being exposed to. How can I protect my daughter when kids around her are doing stuff like this? -- Protecting My Teen, Salem, Massachusetts
DEAR PROTECTING MY TEEN: It’s great that your daughter is talking to you about what happened at camp. You want to keep the conversation going so that she feels she can tell you everything. Listen intently, but without too many questions; teens hate when parents start with the grand inquisition. Ask her if she has ever considered hurting herself. Pay attention to how she responds, including her verbal and non-verbal cues. If you think she may be interested in such behavior, a psychologist is in order. If not, just keep listening.
As far as camp goes, contact the camp leader and have a conversation about the incidence of cutting at the camp and how it handled this. Ask about any other psychological challenges that campers have faced. Press for answers. Let the camp leader know that your daughter wants to keep attending, but you are concerned about her safety. You will have to decide before next summer if you think this environment is safe enough for her to return.