As a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, I know first hand how scary it is to trust your child … overnight … in some far off corner of the world (or so it seems when they go away for the first time) … in the hands of total strangers. That the total strangers come with medical degrees and years of experience with kids with diabetes does not matter, because no one knows my kid’s diabetes like I do.
I waited too long to let go of my own child — she was 13 when she finally was allowed to go off to camp. She had a blast, and not only did she arrive home safe and sound with new friends to expand her diabetes-controlled social circle, she even learned new care tips.
By keeping her home where I could keep her alive, I hurt a part of her young soul. My reluctance to trust the trained people that take care of dozens, if not hundreds of campers every year sent a message to my daughter that the world was not safe. Or at least, she understood that I thought so and for a time, that fear decided when she had her first sleep over, too.
I wish I had not let my fear make decisions for me and for my daughter, and, I am grateful she has forgiven me for my tight grip when she was so young. But that tight grip had the reverse effect — she grew up faster in order to find some freedom in her budding maturity. And so, she mastered her diabetes care on her own and no longer needed me.
She did good on her own, despite my hovering, because, like most kids with type 1 diabetes, she has to be tough and strong. She does not get a day off from her disease and so she just hits it head on. I learned to let go, because I saw that holding on did nothing but hold back.
Moms, it’s okay, really. Send your child to camp this summer.
Tips for Helping Your Child With Diabetes Deal with Homesickness
Any child can get a little homesick while at camp. Children with diabetes may have special apprehensions about whether or not they will get care as good as Mom and Dad provide at home. It is important to reassure your child ahead of time that you are confident in the camp staff’s ability to help them with their diabetes care plan.
Plan to write to your child as often as the camp permits (preferable daily). A camp that does not permit contact between parents and children (some do limit contact so be sure to ask about contact rules) is probably not the best choice for young children.
If your child is simply too young, or not ready emotionally for away-camp, there are also diabetes day camps and even diabetes family camps where the entire family can attend! Explore all options available and discuss them with your child; a child who feels like they have some say in where to attend camp is more likely to have a positive attitude about attending camp for the first time.
Diabetes Camp Information and Camp Locators
Sending your child off to camp is a big decision, so here is more information to help convince you to consider diabetes camp for your child. Talk about your fears and concerns with your child’s doctor — he/she may be able to help you make a decision that you and your child with both be happy with.
- American Diabetes Association: General information about camping, and camp locator
- BD Diabetes: Diabetes camp locator for Canada.
- Children with Diabetes: Tips for Campers, Camper’s Memories, List of Camps in the United States(by State), Canada, Mexico, and Australia.
- The Diabetes Camping Association: DCA members are camping and youth leaders, and medical professionals who operate diabetes camps and youth programs around the world. There are more than 160 diabetes camps in North America and another 160 additional camps around the world. Type 2 Camps | Diabetes Camps in the US | International Diabetes Camps
- The Diabetes Monitor: List of camps and camp information resources
- dLife: List of camps in the US (by state).
- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: Kids Online (Diabetes camp information)
- KidsCamps.com: Diabetes camp locator for the United States.
- My Summer Camps: Listing of diabetes camps throughout the United States & Canada
Articles on Diabetes Camps
Diabetes Health Magazine: Diabetes Camps: Every Kid with Type 1 Should Consider It