Tomorrow night my youngest son returns home from overnight camp. It's the first time that he's been away for such a prolonged period of time. It is also the first time that my nine-year-old experienced such independence and responsibility that comes with being on your own.

Almost four weeks ago, the two of us were sprawled across the carpeted floor of his bedroom collecting neat piles of his clothes. Together, we developed an efficient system—he would gather his stuff from his drawers, passing me one piece at a time; I would label it and pack it into his suitcase, as he checked it off from his master list.

Observing my work closely, he cautioned, "Make sure you label everything, Ma! I don't want it to get lost." He was excitedly anticipating his first camping experience. "But write my name very small. Write it here in the back of the shirt," he said pointing, "or in a place where no one will notice." He instructed authoritatively.

When our family made the fourteen-hour drive back and forth to visit him, midway through his camping session, he proudly showed me his orderly cubby, where all his clothes were neatly folded, just so. Confidently, he informed me that he hadn't lost any of his belongings, thanks to our careful labelling. Other than one black stray pair of socks on which the black labelling pen wasn't legible, all his things were safely returned to him—even from the notorious, clothes-eating, camp laundromat.

And as he knowingly confirmed the merits of our fastidious labelling system, I began to consider the benefits of labels.

Not only on clothes. But on people, too.

Now, I know, it's not politically correct nowadays to apply labels to people. But hear me out.

It's a big bad world out there—even worse than that clothes-eating camp laundromat. Without a deeply engrained, strong sense of their identity, our kids can so easily lose their distinct selfhood, in their attempts to meld in with their surroundings. Only a clear, indelible and positively experienced label of our heritage—of who and what we are—can withstand the melting pot of assimilating into the crowd.

When we proudly wear a label of our identity, or a label of our family's and nation's heritage and history, we feel a distinct sense of belonging, a true knowledge of who we are and where we belong—one that can help us find our way back through any circumstance.

Tell your child he is a Jew—a member of a three-thousand year old chain of tradition. He is a part of a chosen people. He has parents, grandparents or great ancestors of whom he can be proud. He has a special tradition and family customs of which he can feel gratified. This identity will help him stand out, and remain apart—and, if he does falter, help him find his way back.

Also tell your child his unique qualities as a person—his strength and talents, and what you like so much about his special personality. Clearly label his untapped potential and you will help him maximize his best qualities and develop his character to its fullest. He will believe in the labels you give him and strive to live up to them.

Labels only become hazardous when they are negative or debilitating. Or when they become so central, that they overtake the individual.

As my son cautioned me—make sure the labels are small, and unnoticeable. Labels don't need to be worn outwardly, front and center. Labels that are too showy, arrogant, or too big are overwhelming—and unsightly. When a label becomes the person, rather than a part of his identity and what he can strive to be, it becomes counter-productive. Rather than helping him to actualize his unique sense of self, it hides it and squelches it.

We can then only see the label, and no longer the distinct individual.

I'm really excited that my son is finally coming home. I'm also happy that he's coming back with all his camp gear in tow.

But I'm even more glad that he's gained an increased sense of maturity and a belief in his capabilities and his identity.

I hope as the years progress, he will wear the label of his heritage with ever greater pride and that throughout the turns and twists of our confusing lives, it will help him find his path.

Now where did I store that labelling pen for next year?