Q: I dread the week between school and camp, and again between camp and school. It’s as if all my children’s annoying middos emerge at once to overwhelm me. I try to get them to visit others, but there are always one or two children who prefer to stay home, no matter what I suggest they do.
A: Transitions are difficult for all human beings. The word “adaptation” is not used for those with unusual needs, but for the general human population. When children leave the school environment and anticipate soon going to camp, certain natural apprehensions arise. Even if a child has gone to the same camp and is entering a bunk with a composition similar to last year’s, different social dynamics are bound to arise due to the different individual development of peers. Previously close friends can become distant, in some cases more “mature.” Children see how relationships change, whether at school or in the neighborhood.
This reality causes most people to fear change, and causes many to remain in mediocre or slightly negative situations rather than choose the unknown. We can see this in our adult lives when we consider changing schools or medical professionals as a result of wondering whether the alternative would be better.
In this way, the week after school or camp is not only tension-producing due to lack of structure, but fear of the unknown can be looming over children’s heads.
On the simplest level, parents need to create structure during the time between camp and school, as this creates a sense of security for children. Whether by encouraging an older child to organize a “camp” for the block, or making a “school” with next-door neighbors, a schedule is needed. Stickers and small prizes add incentive and a sense of accomplishment.
Older children can do needed and somewhat interesting activities — such as printing out pictures from cameras or phones and finding places for these pictures. Finding covers for CDs and going through parts of the house that are usually ignored, are other examples of teaching children to utilize time wisely.
When it comes to children who never desire to leave their house (but do little with their time), a parent needs to speak with them before the school break and discuss possible options of how to spend their days. If one is able to discuss this issue — explaining how it affects the parent greatly when family members just “hang around” — preventive problem-solving techniques can help the situation. Children may complain that “other parents” let their children use electronics to keep them occupied, but you are allowed to have different expectations of your children. Parents and children need to brainstorm ideas of ways to use time constructively and satisfy both parties involved.
In general, if siblings begin to pester one another during this time period, a parent needs to try teaching methods of compromise and better communication skills. After employing a degree of mediation, structure and direction need to be re-introduced before some new form of altercation begins due to lack of structure. This could include doing summer homework or reviewing subjects that need to be strengthened before embarking on the next year’s school workload.
Hatzlachah with this most worthy endeavor!