By GreatSchools Staff
Summer brings a change in routine, and that's enough to make some children anxious. The girl who begged to go to soccer camp might have second thoughts about going to a new place with children she doesn't know. The boy who's going away to sleepaway camp may be nervous about leaving home for the first time. Here's what you can do now to ease the transition:
1. Involve your child in planning and preparing.
Narrow your list of options to those that meet your needs, your child's needs and your budget. Then, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, give your child a role in planning the summer. Giving him some control over the way he'll spend his time may head off homesickness. If you can't let him choose the camp itself, perhaps he can help choose the specific program, days or hours he'll attend.
As the time for camp nears, involve him in packing his bag for sleepaway camp, making sure all of his clothes are labeled with his name or packing his backpack for day camp. When your child leaves home, whether it's for the day or the week, be sure he knows who is going to pick him up and when.
If you have a summer jam-packed with different camps, vacations and care-givers, help you child make a wall-size calendar that shows the family's plans between the end of the school year and the beginning of the next one. Because younger children have trouble understanding the passage of time, give a child who's going away to camp or to an extended stay with relatives a small calendar so he can mark off the days.
2. Talk to your child about the changes.
Discuss what will be familiar, as well as what will be new. Is she going to day camp with a good friend from school? Is the camp at a familiar location, like the neighborhood YMCA? Are there any familiar faces on the staff? Reassuring her that it's OK to have mixed feelings will help her learn to manage new situations.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents of children going away to camp talk to them ahead of time about homesickness while staying positive about the adventures ahead. The academy's guidelines say parents should avoid making an agreement to pick up the child if he gets homesick because it might undermine his confidence in his ability to be independent.
3. Plan for some ordinary days.
If your child is going straight from basketball camp to sleepaway camp to a long family vacation, think about arranging what child development expert Dr. Judith Myers-Walls calls some "buffer periods" to help her rest and enjoy some unscheduled time. If you need child care during the day, consider arranging to share a baby-sitter with friends or neighbors.
"Parents need to realize it's OK to have ordinary days," says Myers-Walls, a professor at Purdue University. "You need ordinary meals in between the five-star restaurants to appreciate the gourmet meals."
"There are real advantages in letting kids do projects, in letting kids get together to do their own newsletter or start a lemonade stand, put on a play or build something," Myers-Walls says. Children who are overprogrammed miss the chance to exercise their initiative, creativity and teamwork without adult direction, she says.
4. Practice for new experiences.
If your child is going to sleepaway camp for the first time, arrange for sleepovers with a friend or a weekend with a relative in the spring. Take a walk around the block with your child at night and let her practice using a flashlight, or help her plan a campout with a friend in her own backyard.
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