Should I send my child to diabetes summer camp?

Unless your child is the kind who would be miserably homesick and suffer psychological damage in any summer camp, we think it's a good idea especially for younger and newly diagnosed children. We've had reports from young people who consider their camp experience as a breakthrough in understanding their diabetes and in learning new practical techniques of management. Even more important to them was the realization that they're not oddballs and that the world is full of other diabetics who are successfully coping with the condition.

It's a genuine comfort for a diabetic to be in a situation in which virtually everyone is a diabetic and the nondiabetic is the one who's peculiar. Barbara had this latter experience one day at the Sugarfree Center. June and Ron, both diabetic, were on the scene, as was our cleaning woman, another diabetic. (We practice reverse discrimination and only hire diabetics!) Everyone who dropped by that day was diabetic. Even the mail was all from diabetics. Barbara began to get the creepy feeling that she was the only nondiabetic on earth and that there was something wrong with her for not having it.

Summer camp is also a good way for a child who has perhaps been overprotected at home because of diabetes to develop self reliance. One major benefit of diabetes summer camp is for the parents. For a short while you get out from under the stress and strain of worrying about your diabetic child. You know he or she is in the best of hands and you can get away for a little R & R yourself. You need it and you deserve it. Stress works its damage on you as well as on the diabetic child.

Summer camp can also give you a chance to improve your relationship with any nondiabetic children in the family. They may be developing feelings of being less loved because they don't get the constant concern that the diabetic child gets. A week or two of exclusive attention can be a booster shot of security and self esteem for them.

We have heard a few complaints about diabetes summer camps, including one from a mother whose already too thin child came home five pounds lighter and showing ketones, and from a young woman who was disturbed and disgusted by the wild goings on with alcohol and marijuana in one camp for teenagers. But these are isolated instances. The overwhelming majority of the reports have been favorable.

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