Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Interview with Miriam Arond

Aired June 24, 2002 - 07:49   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: School is out, summer camp is in, and if you are one of the many parents about to send your kids off for a couple of weeks' time, we are here to help you deal with letters like this one. Quote: "I want to come home. I'm not having fun. Not that I'm getting picked on, I'm just not having fun. You are probably going to write back that it has only been a week -- give it a chance. I miss you so much." That's from Simon, age 11.

Miriam Arond is editor-in-chief of "Child" magazine. She now joins us live today in New York City -- good morning to you.


HEMMER: You've got to absolutely to be tugged when you hear letters like that from Simon.

AROND: Parents need to prepare themselves for what they are about to endure.

HEMMER: Preparation. How do you do it? You say you can start early and already jump on that bandwagon. How do you start?

AROND: Well, you want to arm your child with as many as specifics as possible about what camp is going to be like, what the day will be like, what the schedule will be like, what the bunk will be like. But you also want to prepare your child that in fact homesickness is a normal part of the camp experience.

And so don't only build up, oh, it's going to be great. It's going to be so much fun. Say, you know what? There are going to be some hard days and times that you're really going to want to come home, you are going to miss us. And that can be tough, and it's normal.

HEMMER: A lesson in honesty, yes. Here is another letter. This one is Elana. I believe she was nine years old when she wrote this. She says: "Dear mom and dad, I am very homesick. All that I can think about is you guys. If this letter is wet when you get it, it's because I was crying while I wrote it." Now, she ended up having a blast.

AROND: Right.

HEMMER: And many times the question goes to: What does a parent do, at what point do they react and say, you know what, we've really got an issue here, or let's let this one ride out?

AROND: Well, you don't panic. You do detective work, and you do detective work with your child and with the camp. So when your child writes home complaining, go back to your child. What exactly is wrong? What's happening? Is there a gang-up in the bunk? Is your counselor not being nice? Are you not happy with the activities? And also call the counselor and call the director of the camp.

HEMMER: You can do that then. You can call the counselor.

AROND: Well, you call the director of the camp first, and you say, I am hearing unhappy things from my child. Now, maybe she is just unleashing her fears and doubts to me privately and is prancing around the camp happily, or in fact maybe she is unhappy, and I need a reality check. How is she doing, and what do you think is the problem? And then you need to share with the camp director and the counselor, you know, this is what works with my child. This is what she needs. These are some of the ways you can reach her and connect with her.

HEMMER: Confessions of a 10-year-old, Fort Scott summer camp, southwestern Ohio, I cried like a baby for the first hour. Then everything turned around. I had a fantastic week. And I think what we are seeing, though, is that today, you know, we could write letters and we could have correspondence by way of mail, but today the technology has changed considerably.

AROND: Right.

HEMMER: What happens when you have things like a cell phone? Do you advise to use that to communicate that way?

AROND: Well, you have to find out what the camp's policy is. If the camp's policy is that they allow children to have cell phones, guess what? Everybody in the bunk is going to have a cell phone. So if you don't let your child take one, they are going to be the odd man out. You have to feel comfortable with the camp's policy. If your child does have a cell phone, don't call your child all day long and interrupt them during volleyball...


HEMMER: That would not be advisable.

AROND: It's not advisable. You have to let your child adjust. If you think your child will be helped by having a good night phone call every night, or leaving a message on the voice mail of the cell phone...

HEMMER: Why go to summer camp, though, if you are going to talk to your parents every night?

AROND: This is a very different day and age. You know, we used to go for a day shopping in the city, and we didn't speak to our parents for hours. Now, our kids go, and they are calling us five times. Well, what should I buy? What should I do? They are used to being in contact with parents much more.

HEMMER: What about e-mail, Miriam?

AROND: E-mail is a great thing, much more preferable than cell phones. So speaking to your child by phone is -- e-mailing and faxing the camp and making sure -- asking the camp, will they pass these on to a child? Because once a child hears your voice, that can really trigger, you know, some tears. They start feeling very homesick when they hear your voice. But if you are giving encouraging faxes and e- mails, that's kind of a connection with you, but it's not quite tugging the same way.

HEMMER: You give some good advice when you say write early before the child arrives, so that...

AROND: Right.

HEMMER: ... when a mail drop occurs, your child, your boy or your girl, is not left out. But you also advise writing a postcard every day. Is that excessive?

AROND: Well, have letters waiting for your child. It's a great thing. And, well, I think it's really nice. First of all, once you think about that fact that you don't usually get to write to your child. So there is something really nice about communicating in a different way. And if you are a letter writer, if you have the time to write letters, than that's a wonderful thing. But if your child gets a postcard every day that is reminding them, you know what? Mom and dad haven't forgotten about me. And by the way, don't include in the postcard all of the fantastic things you child is missing at home.

HEMMER: That's right.

AROND: Don't write about the great barbecues and the great parties. It's really boring at home.


AROND: Remember, you are working, and you know...

HEMMER: You are not missing a thing.

AROND: Not missing a thing.

HEMMER: Quickly, best age to go, what age?

AROND: Ten is probably a really good age.

HEMMER: Ten. Is that fourth grade-ish?

AROND: Yes. But wait until your child is really begging to go. If your child just makes a casual aside, oh, I want to go sleep with them (ph), and never mentions it again, don't just sign them up.

HEMMER: Got it. Miriam, thanks -- Miriam Arond, "Child" magazine. Good advice and good tips to know.

AROND: Thanks.

HEMMER: I have recovered, by the way from my one hour of crying.

AROND: There are some great experiences to be had at camp.

HEMMER: Yes, indeed, there are.