Maybe, he observes, some kids just aren't "ready to separate" from mom or dad when they're first sent to camp. "Eventually we do grow up and learn independence but everyone is different and has their own pace," he said.
So what's the take-away for parents, given that some campers never get over being homesick, others grow to enjoy camp, and some who hate the experience as kids became adventurous adults?
Fran Walfish, a family psychotherapist in Hollywood who writes for Parents magazine's "Ask the Expert," doesn't recommend sleepaway camp for kids under 9 unless they are very outgoing and transition easily, or unless an older sibling is at the same camp. Even with older kids, she recommends sending them to camp with a good friend so they have a built-in buddy.
And if you get tearful letters or calls home, "do not ever leap abruptly to rescue," she advises. But do call the camp, and "if the trend is not getting better by day three or four, that is cause for concern." Some kids have more separation anxiety than others, and a depressed child who can't eat or sleep shouldn't be forced to stay away.
But it's also important to make sure kids don't spend the summer watching TV and playing videogames. Fortunately, Walfish notes, there's an alternative: Day camp, where they "can sleep in their own beds at night."