Summer camp is an exciting and fun experience for an older child, but whether it’s a sleep-away camp or a day camp, little siblings can feel left out and worried as their regular weekly routines begin to change. But making a few changes and adjustments can make all the difference when trying to help our younger children cope with this popular summer transition.
Tactile children will feel the loss of a playmate since they are accustomed to having another body to follow around, wrestle and cuddle up to. They will hate the idea of not being part of their siblings’ activities, which can lead to tantrums.
This can be prevented by creating a camp in your own home. Fill it with activities similar to what their older sibling is doing, but age-adjusted. If the sleep-away camp has a swim program, then take your little one to a pool to swim. If your eldest is at a horse riding camp, a quick pony ride at the park will make them feel included. Take photos and make a scrapbook that can be shared between the siblings. For example, you could have a theme along the lines of: “Summer 2013: Jenny on a horse at her riding camp, and Timmy on a pony at the farmer’s market.”
Expect a lot of questions from your auditory child, especially about what their brother or sister is doing. Keep a calendar handy from the camp to help answer any questions. Also, if possible, include a few photographs. Remember to include your auditory child in any phone calls, because they will feel comforted by being able to speak and hear their sibling’s voice. Moreover, have your camp child make a few audio recordings before leaving home — reading a story or maybe saying “good night” to their other sibling. It is also helpful to pack them off with a few audio cards so they can send a variety of different cards home whenever they please.
Overall, the house will seem very quiet to an auditory child and this can cause anxiety; thus, encourage them to make new sounds like playing music or having friends over for sleepovers.
Visual children will feel the visual hole left by the missing sibling, so it’s best to avoid things you do regularly as a family and have “new rules” during the holiday camp period. This can range from simple treats like being able to eat breakfast while watching cartoons, or taking a friend with you when you visit the park. If the camp your elder child is going to sells T-shirts, buy one for your younger visual child. This will help them feel connected to their elder sibling’s life, especially if you can get a photograph of both children wearing their T-shirts together for the youngest child to keep.
Another helpful trick is to create a calendar to count and cross off the days ’til the eldest child returns and encourage contact through letters with photos and drawings sharing their holiday exploits.
Taste and smell children tend to be more emotional and find it hard to keep their feelings to themselves. They prefer that all their family remains in one place and as a result, can become upset at long absences. Expect tears over the smallest of things; this is how they cope with new changes in the home dynamic. They will struggle to want their sibling to have fun and miss them terribly. Distraction is the best anecdote for these children as well as a very positive attitude will little detail. This means talking about how much fun the sibling is having and how much fun they are going to have. Generally, this means treating camp like an everyday experience.
It’s easy to forget that our at-home child also has a transition to move through just as much as our older child, so it’s important that we give both children the support they need to have a great summer, even if they are apart.
Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of “Child Sense” and “Calm the Crying.” She currently works in New York as a behavioral consultant. Learn more about Dunstan at calmthecrying.com.
Distributed by MCT Information Services