Yikes! Our 14 year old hates summer camp

Last year, our son attended a month long sleep away camp. This year, he asked that we send him there again and do we did. Within 3 days, he was pleading to come home.  Then, he was angry and abusive over the phone when we refused.  This camp is very expensive, he asked to attend and there was no possible refund, plus we don't want a restless teen on our hands for a month (we both work.)  We've spoken to his counselors and the issue appears to be one of social integration...he tends to take offense easily and doesn't seem to get the teen insult culture.  Our concern is his return in 2 weeks...are we in for hell?  How do we handle this?  

Also, any recommendations for other discussion boards on teen issues.  We simply don't know how to react to this stranger who kidnapped our son.

Parent Replies

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Sounds like a male version of the movie Mean Girls or a variation of the Stanford prisoner experiment.  You know your son best.  From what you have written It sounds like this is not a case of being home-sick.  I’m surprised the camp and counselors are allowing this to happen.  Sounds to me like the counselors are allowing your son to be a victim. That’s not right.  Doesn’t’ matter if your son takes sensitive or not.  Isn’t it the role of the camp and counselors to socially integrate the campers and lay down some social educate rules?  And I’m sure your son isn’t the only camper who is sensitive.   

It sounds like the reason your son was abusive is because he feels he’s being treated unfairly and the counselors, the people who should be helping him, aren’t.  Be glad he’s venting at you and not one of the campers… don't take it personally.

Things might get better for him in a few days or a week or they could get much worse.  I think it all depends on the camp’s management attitude towards this type of behavior.

I would contact the management of the camp and ask them what the camp’s policy is about campers not respecting each other and insults?  If it sounds like they are blowing you off I would bring your son home and demand a full refund.  If they have a policy and you think they will enforce it without victimizing your son even more tell your son to give it a few more days.  If things don’t improve bring him home and forget the money.
 
I have seen similar situations as you have described an in three instances where the camp management took action and it had a happy outcome.  But there was one case where the camp management did nothing and thing just got worse.

See what others have to say.  If your son is having a bad time it’s something he’ll probably remember it for the rest of his life. 

Good luck.

If he is asking you to come home and you are not listening, how will he know he can ask you harder questions later and you will listen to him? He is just beginning his teenage years and will have harder situations later in teenhood where he will need a parent/mentor/shoulder to cry on or ask for support. What is more important to you? Two more weeks without a teen? or knowing you have a teenager that feels he is listened to and can come to you for help later down the line? Maybe a compromise- at the halfway point( 2 weeks) if things still aren't going well, counselors have been contacted, methods tried and he is still miserable ask him what he wants to do and listen to hiim. 

I just picked my son up early from a 2-week camp, for different reasons, but none-the-less critical to his well-being.  Set aside your needs and financial issues for the moment.  What's best for your son now and long-term?  As you've already spoken with the counselors, contact camp management.  Will they allow you to visit your son and meet with counselors and management to put together a plan to address the problem?

If the problems cannot be addressed to his, and your, satisfaction, consider bringing him home.  It may be a pain for you, and you'll need to figure out an alternative approach to the summer, but it sounds like this could have far-reaching implications. You might consider interviewing therapists so you have one selected for him to see when he does return home, whether early or not.  It sounds like your son is hurting and doesn't know what to do.

My son was angry in reaching out to me.  We then received a series of alarming and concerning letters from him - wrote over several days, but received all at once.  The letters were highly out of character.  I immediately made arrangements to pick him up.  It was the best thing I could have done.  He said he could have finished out the camp, but would have been very angry.  He was surprised and appreciative that I picked him up.  It's gone a long way to making good on a situation that was bad/damaging for him.  We are following up with therapy.  It's hard to be a teen these days.

I would insist they let you go and observe for a day or issue you a full refund, and GO there for a day (and evening) so you can see what is really going on.