When You Can’t Afford Camp

tennisWith summer upon us many of us parents are figuring out how our kids will spend their time. Of course, you can’t throw a stone without hitting options: a camp for every sport under the sun, academic camps, debate camps, activities camps and so forth. There are also many other kinds of experiences (e.g., high school students offered the opportunity to take summer college classes). Some of these may be affordable while others may require a substantive investment. If you can afford the camp(s) or experience(s) you’re considering, and your kid wants to go, read no further. But, if you can’t afford these activities, or if you’re on the fence about whether they are worth it, read on.


Before considering the specifics, we first need to acknowledge our lunacy. Readers of this blog know that one of my most used terms is “parent-lunatic.” This decision, as important as it may seem in the moment, is not likely to wreck or make our kid’s future, despite what we might be telling ourselves. So, deep breathe and let’s all try to keep these decisions in perspective.

Three questions

I would suggest considering three questions in making this decision: (1) What question mark over brainreally matters? (2) What are the goals? (3) How much will this tax us?

(1) What really matters are relationships and wellness. One of the best ways you might focus on this is to watch a couple of Tom Shadyac’s wonderful movies: I Am and HappyThe scientifically grounded truth: the things that really promote happiness needn’t be expensive.

(2) I would propose four general kid goals for the summer time: bonding with family, bonding with friends, physical activity and advancing strengths The first three are pretty obvious. Strength advancement involves developing our kid’s top strengths. (Please enter the term “strengths” in the search bar above for a brief description, or for a fuller accounting see the second chapter of my parenting book..) Well-conceived and implemented camps portend to be very helpful for strength advancement.

(3) Of course we need to consider if this potential activity unduly taxes our finances or our energy. Parenting from the cross, as in the Christian crucifix, is ineffective. We all sacrifice, yes. That’s the game we’re in as parents (isn’t it exhausting often?). But, we just want to make sure that the result doesn’t torch our health or our marriage, to name two common victims of crucifix parenting.

What if you have to say “no.”

confusedOMG, doesn’t it sometimes feel like the world is coming to an end when our mouth, creaky and stiff from a lack of practice from forming the word, actually says “no?” We parent-lunatics all need to attend “How to Say ‘No’ camp!” At such camps we all might line up in front of mirrors, with our coaches gently massaging our shoulders, and practice forming the word “no.” Support staff could then bring in water and towels as we exert ourselves from the effort!

Seriously, though, if you decide either that the experience is too expensive, or just not worth the cost, I’d suggest two guidelines: selective truth telling and alternate planning. If you enter the term “selective truth telling” in the search bar above you’ll find a fuller description of this method. But, in short, the older the kid and the better s/he is doing in life, the more I’d suggest being calmly truthful about the reason(s) for the “no.” The younger or the more vulnerable the kid the more I’d keep what I share brief and not offer details that could be overwhelming.

Alternative planning refers to substituting an activity that better stands the test of the three questions I indicated above. Depending on whether your kid needs help learning to tolerate the word “no,” you could always wait a bit until you share the alternate plan.

What if we want to do the camp but just can’t afford it?money held by hand

Many sponsoring organizations offer opportunities for fund raising. They do bake sales, coin drops, car washes, raffles and so forth; if you have a couple of other parents in the same boat, you could organize your own fund raising. You might also find businesses that are willing to sponsor your child or consider some of the internet options that have sprung up for fund raising. Or, if your kid is old enough, you might find neighbors willing to pay for him or her to do some landscaping work. Finally, the camp itself may be willing to work with you on a payment plan or a sliding scale.

Good luck and I hope it all works out for you and your kid(s)!



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