DEAR HARRIETTE: My daughter spent a month at camp this summer. When she got home, she told me that one of the girls in her group had tried to hurt herself through cutting.
I was shocked. The camp had not mentioned this to me. I think this is a serious mental health problem, and parents should have been informed. Obviously, they want to keep that teen’s identity private, but I don’t understand why they wouldn’t have informed the parents of the incident.
What can I do regarding this situation? My daughter wants to go back to the camp, but I’m reluctant to agree to that if the camp isn’t going to inform parents of potential safety challenges. What do you recommend? -- Camp Communication
DEAR CAMP COMMUNICATION: You should contact the camp administration immediately, let them know what your daughter told you and ask what happened. Let them tell you what they know. Then inquire directly as to why they did not immediately let you know this had occurred. Ask what they did when this happened. Did they send the teen home? Do they have guidance counselors or psychologists on site to help the campers deal with challenges like this? How are they going to try to prevent this type of behavior in the future? Be direct about asking them what they will do to make you feel that it is safe for your daughter to return.
Now, I will tell you that even at the most efficient camps, teens do sometimes try extreme behaviors. If there are disturbed teens at a camp, there is a chance that something like cutting can occur. Camp administration may not be able to prevent this or other dangerous behaviors completely, but they should be required to inform parents and to have protocols in place to support the teen in need and the rest of the camp community.