Q: My daughter had a blast at her type 1 diabetes camp, but now that she's home, she seems "homesick" for camp! What can we do to add a few pieces of the diabetes camp experience into our everyday family life?
A: We camp directors and counselors always consider it a really good sign when children miss camp, because then we know we did our jobs! Just like any other camp, diabetes camp is all about making friends, learning new skills, and that burst of independence that comes when campers let go of homesickness and start having fun. But what sets a camp for children with type 1 apart -- and perhaps what your daughter misses the most right now -- is spending time immersed in a community where children don't need to feel different because of their diabetes. When everyone at camp has type 1 (including many of the counselors and staff), it's as if no one has type 1. This can be a very powerful experience for campers.
Now might be the perfect time to evaluate how connected you are to the type 1 community in your own area. Is there a local American Diabetes Association or JDRF chapter that sponsors activities for families and children? Does your diabetes clinic host any kind of family events? So many children at camp for the first time tell me they have never met another person their age who has type 1. Talk to your daughter about her own experiences -- getting to know other local children with type 1 may be a way to give her more of those "Wow, we're the same" moments she probably had at camp. If no group currently exists, let your diabetes educator know that you're interested in meeting up with other families. Chances are that others out there also want to make a connection.
Did your daughter learn a special skill at camp this summer? Diabetes camp is valuable because it teaches, in a very direct way, that having type 1 doesn't stop you in the least from being an active person. Maybe your daughter became so good at paddling a canoe that she went on a solo trek around the lake, demonstrating physical and mental strength, motivation, and true independence. Now that she's back from camp, does she have the opportunity to continue honing these skills? There may not be a lake nearby, but what about lessons at an indoor climbing gym? Or joining the soccer team?
Finally, could it be the relaxed camp atmosphere and spending hours on end just having fun with friends that's making your daughter a little "campsick" now that she's home? Making lasting friendships that get rekindled summer after summer is a big part of what makes camp so magical. How about sparking some memorable summer moments with your daughter's usual group of hometown friends? Host a backyard tent sleepover, drive to the state park for swimming and a picnic, or hit the amusement park for the day. Let your daughter's experience at camp be your guide for infusing summer with a little more fun and excitement.
--Danielle Eid was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child and has been with the Barton Center in Oxford, Mass. -- one of the largest, independent camping and educational programs in the country dedicated to children with diabetes -- for 22 years, first as a camper and now as the Girls' Camp Director.
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.
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