Since going to sleepaway camp may be the first time a child this age is away from her family, handling that separation successfully is a big achievement. Indeed, without their parents nearby to solve problems big and small, kids have to figure out how to work collaboratively, alongside children and adults with whom they may not have very much in common. The sense of self-reliance that develops from this sort of experience tends to be long-lasting. "Once they return home, campers are often more comfortable and confident when speaking to a teacher, a coach, or friends' parents, and they're better able to cooperate with other kids," says Rubenstein.
"Roughing it" means your kid will have to unhook herself from her portable video-game player and do without television and the computer, not to mention air-conditioning. Nudged out of her comfort zone, she may discover that she loves books when she reads by flashlight at night, enjoys writing letters she'd never find time (or have a reason) to pen otherwise, and likes to try new sports, hobbies, and maybe even foods.