The Camp Bus and a Not-So-Athletic Child

By Catherine Pearlman

June 4, 2016 4 min read

Dear Family Coach: Our child is an enthusiastic team player, but he is absolutely terrible at sports. As his friends are becoming increasingly specialized and trying out for club teams and travel teams, he is just not able to keep up. He still wants to play and he wants to belong. How can we make him feel good about himself as his opportunities for participating in sports begin to narrow? — Not-So-Sporty Family

Dear Not-So-Sporty: The opportunities for participation don't have to narrow. Sure, Little League may become too competitive for him. But the local Boys & Girls Club might have a perfect club team for him. If your son is still an eager beaver and wants to play, you should keep looking for the right sport and/or league for him.

Traditional sports aren't the only option for your son to be part of a team. Think about your son's unique interests and abilities. There may be a nontraditional sport he'd enjoy. Is he the quiet, contemplative type? Maybe he'd like to try fencing, archery, tae kwon do or track. Does he love the water? Great, how about water polo, diving or sailing? Are you looking for a college scholarship opportunity? Don't forget about table tennis and bowling. Would he like playing a sport with a ball? Pickleball, gaga, wallyball, or even platform tennis could be perfect for him. There is a team for everyone. Now, go find the right one for your son.

Dear Family Coach: We are sending our son to sleep-away camp for the first time this summer. Do you have any tips for how to make sure he feels loved and supported when we abandon him at the bus? — Excited but Worried

Dear Worried: You aren't abandoning your son. You are giving him the gift of a lifetime. The opportunity to head off to blissful summer camp, live independently from parental eyes and enjoy free-flowing ice cream and friends is priceless. Presumably you know all about the benefits of camp (unplugging from electronics, outdoor activities, exposure to new people and activities, skill development, etc). Help build excitement for camp by watching online camp videos, reviewing materials you were given by the camp and discussing the special activities your son says he can't wait to try. If you can, ask the camp for the names of some other local kids attending. That might make the bus ride feel more like an adventure with friends as opposed to a solo trip.

It sounds like you are more concerned with how you are going to handle the send-off. To ease the transition for both of you, maintain a very positive attitude, even if you have to fake it. Don't incessantly ask your son if he will miss you. Assume he will. Instead, tell him how excited you are for him to experience camp. Tell him you love receiving letters and you will write often. In fact, make sure to send a letter or two to the camp a week before he leaves. Pack a few mementos, such as photos and one of his favorite stuffed animals, to provide comfort if he misses home. It will feel strange to wave goodbye, and you might even suddenly have the urge to jump on the bus with him. Planning a fun activity for after you drop him off might help you with the adjustment.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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