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Originally published Sunday, August 5, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Does kid's boredom justify camp next summer?

The Parent 'Hood: Is your child missing his friends, summer camp or something else?

Chicago Tribune

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Your son's friends all go away to camp. He didn't want to. Now he's bored to tears. Should you force him next year?

Parent advice (from our panel of staff contributors):

Being bored does not necessarily equal enjoying what camp has to offer. Missing friends is one thing; enduring camp if that's not your thing is another. Time to suggest looking into nearby day programs (park district?) that may lead to new friends and summer fun next year.

— Dodie Hofstetter

Nope. No forcing. But on the off-chance (ha!) that he will fail to remember this nine months hence, make him write a short letter to himself about how bored he is with his friends all gone. Keep that letter for ammo next spring, when it's time to sign him up.

— Phil Vettel

I'm guessing you won't have to force him. Just a gentle reminder of the boredom of sitting out, plus a little effort to get him in a camp where another friend will be going, should be all the nudge he needs next time.

— Wendy Donahue

Expert advice:

You could force him. Or you could take this opportunity to swoop in and remind him how gosh darn fun his own family is.

How often, after all, do you have weeks-upon-weeks of time with your kid, uninterrupted by homework or friends?

If he's not itching to fill that time with camp, you may want to seize the moment.

"I'm a big believer in customizing your approach to your specific family," says Meg Cox, author of "The Book of New Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays and Everyday" (Running Press). "There's no one-size-fits-all for summer. If he doesn't want to go to camp, there are certain qualities of the camp experience that you can bring home."

A few ideas to ponder:

Master a skill. "One of the great things about camp is the ability to devote a few weeks to one accomplishment that is a layered, accumulative thing," says Cox. "Come up with some things with your kid that have that kind of flavor: Learn how to juggle, learn some magic tricks, perfect your diving, learn to cook your favorite food, take ice skating lessons in July."

Stray from routine. "I love traditions that turn things on their head. Pitch a tent in the backyard. Have one meal a week on the floor on a blanket. Take moonlight walks with flashlights."

Be a team. "Camp has all these rituals and there are ways to translate that into the family sphere," Cox says. "Make up a chant where each letter of your last name stands for something. Make up a rap or a song about your family. Make 'Camp Baxter' T-shirts."

Go on field trips. "I'm a big advocate of being a tourist in your own town. Go see all the things you forget to see during the year. And buy the T-shirt."

Don't feel like you need a camp counselor's work schedule to pull off these things, Cox says. "If you do one special thing for an hour every night of the week, you can really have some fun," she says. "Learn a simple activity one night. Have a watermelon seed spitting contest. Make s'mores at home. Look at it as an opportunity to do some things that are totally new."

Have a solution? Your daughter's friends get back-to-school gifts from their parents. Can you resist this trend without guilt? Email us at parenthood@tribune.com.

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