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Anxiety in Scouting

Hello,

My son is a Tenderfoot in his troop, and has been stuck trying to rank up for several months. He has almost all of his 2nd Class and 1st Class requirements done - except ones that require camping.

He has been diagnosed with extreme anxiety issues and has been seeing a therapist for a few years now - as well as taking medication. In every aspect of his life - school, home life, athletics… things have improved. The only thing he has been unable to get over is his fear of camping overnight.

He enjoys scouts and genuinely wants to advance, but he cannot - due to a medical diagnosis - bring himself to camp overnight. He has participated in several campouts, but even those become a nightmare for him - as he has panic attacks (or has a great deal of anxiety about the next panic attack coming), and he has no fun because all he can think about is the looming anxiety attack. At every other event and activity, he enjoys himself.

The last campout he attended, early in the summer - he managed to spend Friday night with his patrol, but by Saturday afternoon the leaders were calling me to come pick him up, because he was having an anxiety attack (they thought it was heat stroke). I had to drive over an hour to get him, and now he refuses to even consider camping, because he’s fearful that he will have another panic/anxiety attack and the other boys will see it.

We’ve tried a million different bribes, tricks, and/or games to get him to feel comfortable, but nothing seems to work for him, and now he feels like he is falling behind his friends in rank advancement and is becoming very self-conscious about that too. Last night he said he wanted to quit scouting, because his friends finished their 1st Class rank and he still hasn’t completed 2nd Class. I plan to take a leadership role in his troop in the future - but for the next few moths I’m committed to be the Webelos 2 leader/Cubmaster for my younger sons’ pack, and I don’t want 4 more months to go by with my son feeling like he’s fallen behind his friends and becoming increasingly disheartened with scouting just because of this one issue.

My question isn’t how to get him past the anxiety - the therapist is doing her best to help with that - and her work with him has helped in every other aspect of his life so far. Between her help and my joining his troop as a leader in the spring, I think we’ll be fine long term.

Instead, my question is does BSA make concessions for boys with diagnosed anxiety issues like this. He really is a strong kid in every other respect - he’s a great big brother, a leader at school, and one of the stars of his baseball team… he just can’t handle overnight camping, and scouting is supposed to help kids build self-confidence and leadership skills - not tear them down and make them feel horrible about themselves.

I want to meet with his troop leadership, but I just need to be armed with any other concessions other troops have made for kids like my son - or to know if there is an official BSA policy regarding kids like him.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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With a medical diagnosis an alternative plan could be applied for. I think his family being more involved will also help as he won’t feel as he is alone on an island. All Scouts SCOUT differently and all the paths are equally great. Scouting is the goal, not this or that rank or award.

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You say that he has participated in many campouts. How many since joining a troop? He only needs two overnight campouts with the troop/patrol for Second Class, and only three for First Class.

Including summer camp his first year (that was before the anxiety had gotten really bad), he has done a total of 6 individual campouts for a total of 10-12 overnights.

His book is showing 1st class requires 10 separate troop/patrol activities, and 6 of them need to include an overnight.

Can those same overnights be applied to the Camping merit badge down the road?

For First Class, six of the activities need to be outdoors, but only three need to include overnight camping. Since requirements up through First Class can be completed at the same time, any camping he has done since joining the troop will count.

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For Camping MB, there used to be a footnote explicitly stating that any camping since joining the troop could be used. That has been removed for some reason, but there is nothing added to say otherwise, and it has always been my understanding as a Camping MB counselor that all camping done while a member of a troop could be counted.

Thank you all for your help. I will speak to our Troop leadership about how they interpret these camping requirements. I agree with the first commenter, it’s not about the advancement/awards… it should be about the scouting experience. It’s just so hard for him to enjoy the rest of the experience with the camping stuff looming over his head and (seemingly) preventing him from achieving his goals. Maybe, armed with all this information, I can talk to leadership and get the fun back in scouting for my son.

I appreciate all the help so far.

It is possible that the troop leaders do not realize that the camping requirement for Second Class and First Class changed in August 2017 (Bryan on Scouting: Revised campout requirements for Second Class, First Class).

Second Class
1a. Since joining Scouts BSA, participate in five separate troop/patrol activities, at least three of which must be held outdoors. Of the outdoor activities, at least two must include overnight camping. These activities do not include troop or patrol meetings. On campouts, spend the night in a tent that you pitch or other structure that you help erect, such as a lean-to, snow cave, or tepee.

First Class
1a. Since joining Scouts BSA, participate in 10 separate troop/patrol activities, at least six of which must be held outdoors. Of the outdoor activities, at least three must include overnight camping. These activities do not include troop or patrol meetings. On campouts, spend the night in a tent that you pitch or other structure that you help erect, such as a lean-to, snow cave, or tepee.

The current requirements can be found here (scroll down to get to the rank requirements):

https://www.scouting.org/programs/scouts-bsa/advancement-and-awards/

Assuming that those nights of camping otherwise meet the requirements of Camping MB #9, then those same nights can count for both. (Please note that the camping requirements for rank are not exactly the same as the camping requirements for the Camping MB, so some campouts / nights of camping might count for one, but not the other.)

There is also this section from the BSA Guide to Advancement:

4.2.3.6 Fulfilling More Than One Requirement With a Single Activity
From time to time it may be appropriate for a Scout to apply what was done to meet one requirement toward the completion of another. In deciding whether to allow this, unit leaders or merit badge counselors should consider the following.
When, for all practical purposes, two requirements match up exactly and have the same basic intent—for example, camping nights for Second Class and First Class ranks and for the Camping merit badge—it is appropriate and permissible, unless it is stated otherwise in the requirements, to use those matching activities for both the ranks and the merit badge.

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Going back to the original question, there are some helpful resources here:

https://www.scouting.org/resources/disabilities-awareness/

Four months is a very small amount of time in the grand scheme of Scouting. It is an individual journey. Besides, if he is diligently pursuing merit badges, He’ll get Star and Life quickly. I know it’s not your perception that matters as much as his, and it can be hard to reason with an adolescent at times.

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You are absolutely correct. To me, four months will fly by, but to an adolescent dealing with anxiety issues, four months seems insurmountable - especially as he sees his friends advance and worries constantly about how they are perceiving his inability to advance along with them.

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Let him focus on merit badges for now, until he feels more comfortable with the other aspects of Scouting. That’s perfectly fine, just as focusing solely on T-2-1 requirements before merit badges.

Earning some of the merit badges may help him with his anxiety, or at least help him feel like he’s “keeping up with the Joneses”.

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Thanks for all the advice today everyone. I found a local museum that offers merit badge programs, and even just seeing that he can finish one fun merit badge each of the next few months made him feel really good about “getting ahead” on Star and Life while he works through 1st Class requirements.

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@MichaelCurtis - i think once he gets a comfortable stride going things will improve. I do have to say like other have that advancement is only one part of the overall program. When I was a scout and even in my son’s troop today we have scouts who are there to have time with their friends, get some skills and do it all again the next week. Interestingly enough both back then and today there are scouts for whom camping is not t he draw and some are only good with a cabin trip. All of them are a valuable and essential part of the unit.

Even though they are still on the 13th edition of the Scout Handbook, it has been updated with newer “printings” (year). I believe the current printing / most current version is 2018 or 2019. He would not need to buy a new handbook, but could print out the updated requirements, which could be used as signature pages:

Scouts BSA Rank Requirements” on the Scouts BSA Advancement and Awards page.

Yes! Encourage him to consider earning every MB that he can. Only a few of them require camping nights.
Those waivers to substitute requirements have to be signed by the doctor, the parent, and the scout. I found that most of my scouts with a disability – especially a phobia – are very hesitant to get a medical waiver. So hold that thought for a couple of years.

Maintain this thought: First Class First Year is a lie. The skills therein are hard to master. Sure some scouts move up easily, but many (like both of my Sons, now Eagle) take 2-4 years to advance that far.

I remind my scouts that rank doesn’t necessarily identify the best of scouts. In fact the best scout I ever knew aged out at 2nd Class. What made him the best scout ever? He invited me to join his troop.:green_heart:

Inspire your son to be a recruiter. Few scouts have that patch. Those who do should wear it with pride.

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I totally agree. I would add (for the OP) that the written request also has to go through the Scoutmaster or troop committee and go to the council advancement committee.

It sounds to me that it’s likely that the Scout already has the 3 campouts that he needs for Second Class and First Class requirement 1a. Did he spend the night in a tent he pitched or other structure that he helped erect? If so, then those campouts should count towards the activity requirement. Does he have to 10 separate troop/patrol activities (not troop/patrol meetings)? Were at least 6 of those activities held outdoors?

To clarify everything after receiving all this amazing advice…

My son is 13 1/2. He is in 8th grade. The crossed over into Boy Scouts about 2 1/2 years ago, so he is waaaaaay beyond that “First Class in the First Year” idea.

He has done a total of 12 nights of camping and has participated in more than enough activities to meet the requirements for Second and First Class.

His anxiety - which he receives therapy for and takes medicine for - has lessened as he’d gotten older in almost every aspect of life (he used to not be able - at 11 years old - stay at home with his brothers while my wife and I took a walk around the block). Now, he handles most situations… but the anxiety he gets when we even talk about camping is just crippling. So the fact that he got so much camping done early in his scouting career is a blessing, as it seems unlikely that he will be able to camp again anytime soon (the therapist recommends we not push him).

He constantly expresses a desire to advance and move forward in scouting, but when he thinks about having to eventually get the Camping Merit Badge, that feels overwhelming to him. As do a lot of the activities for rank advancement - like some of the First Class Cooking requirements - that are written as if they need to be done on a campout.

I am holding off on any concessions or doctor’s notes for now, to see how he grows and matures and if he is able to overcome the anxiety (with the help he’s getting) on his own.

I appreciate all the help you guys have given here today. My son and I sat down after school today and enrolled in several merit badge classes in our area to attack the Star and Life requirements head on while we work through everything else. A lot of his stress comes from feeling “behind” other boys. His two best friends joined a few months after him and will receive their First Class rank next month - while my son will get his Second Class at the same time. Some of that stems from the camping, but some of it also from his anxiety getting the best of him and his inability to speak up for himself and advocate for himself to get requirements done and/or signed off at troop meetings.

Today that was different. Today he was all smiles and energy thinking about how fast he will be able to do Star and Life by getting “ahead” on merit badges. That’s thanks to all of you and your help.

You are all awesome. I love the scouting community so much,

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Try having him camp in the back yard with you. Ease him back into it.

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Tell your son to hang in there!!

Show your Troop leadership the changes made because if he has at least 3 camping trips (summer camp counts) and 7 other Troop activities then he has more than enough to qualify for First Class. For scouts in my troop, it’s the physical fitness requirements that are slowing them down. They don’t want to write out their fitness log.

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