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Won’t Go To March Break Camp

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Won't Go to Camp You Enrolled Them In

(Originally posted March 15, 2006)

How is your March Break going? Have you got any kids who don’t want to go to the camps you enrolled them in?

Here is one mom who was looking for advice. Read her story and the advice I give:

We enrolled Ben (5 yrs old and the oldest of three) in the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) Camp for March break. 

The first day went great. I dropped him off and picked him up and we made a big deal out of it, going to the book store after and out to lunch together.

The second day however, we all went to drop him off.  When it was time to say good-bye, Ben was all sad and crying, saying that he did not want to go.

Bottom line is that my husband left and I stayed with Ben. I THINK the issue was that Ben felt that he was missing out on the fun that his brother and dad were going to have while he was at camp go figure?…he is with them everyday…and he LOVES the museum…you would think he would love to have some time away doing something different!

Anyway, I tried to reassure him that they were going to be doing regular things, and Dad had told him that we can plan some fun activity in the afternoons together etc etc.
I am sure I said some things that was not "Adlerian"…like, "the camp costs money and we signed up for it"  and "it is a waste of money etc….! "

My husband and I felt so frustrated!  We know he would have fun and yet it is hard to force him to go. Ben could tell I was upset and said, "Mom you don’t like me anymore" which of course broke my heart. I reassured him that I did and that I was just frustrated. He said he just wants to be with his family.

In the end, he agreed to go to camp although the whole way back to the museum from the subway he continued to say he did not want to go. When we finally caught up with the group, he happily sat down and I left.

In fact, when she picked him up she reports:

"I picked Ben up and he was in a great mood and said he had such fun that he did not even want to leave! He showed me his artwork and told me about the fact that they saw a real mummy etc etc etc…. I told him I was happy he enjoyed himself. I asked how he felt about going back tomorrow and he said he would love to!!!! We will see how it goes tomorrow…never know how he will feel in the morning about it so I still need some advice!"

My question is this: What do I do tomorrow????

Alyson’s Advice

I’ll bet this mom is not the only one living this March Break Program night mare!  I emailed her back to determine if her son had been involved in the decision to go to this camp, and she confirmed that they had look it up together on-line and that he was very excited about being enrolled and that they had even discussed that it cost money and was a one week commitment he was going to need to make.  Brava!

With that information in hand, here was my reply:

Ben is 5, so he goes to school daily, no doubt manages that well, and is still at the age of growing his confidence about being out in the world independently.
He is a first born, so he may be social conservative; not liking new things, slow to warm to new ideas and people, doesn’t like too much change. 

Here is my take on the situation

  • you know he is safe
  • you know he is enjoying himself
  • you know this is his responsibility (since he himself chose and you talked about commitment to it)
  • you know this is only a week, not a life sentence

Bottom line: he needs to face his responsibility instead of evade it. He may even feel disappointed with his choice, but he can face his disappointment too.  We learn we can manage by struggling.

If he freaks out tomorrow, think of the "usefulness of behaviour"  I’ve got a $50 wager that his meltdown out will NOT be at the house, like he hates the thought of even stepping foot in the direction of going to the museum. NO NO – he won’t freak out until you get there. Yup, it’ll happen right there in public, as you say your good-byes.   

We see that he himself is torn, half in a baby world of not wanting to miss out, not knowing what the day holds at camp ROM, knowing it is safer to stay with dad and the gang who always have fun. Torn between that and the grown up guy he is becoming, the one who will have fun once he faces the situation and settles in.

So…. Plough on with your day!  Get him there. Have a very happy snappy good-bye so that he gets on with enjoying the day and so as to not prolong the torturous good-bye (kind of like ripping off of a Band-Aid quickly instead of slowly) and let him and the ROM deal with the fall out (that why they get paid – have NO guilt).

If he complains, you can let him know that he doesn’t need to do this again, but he does need to finish his week that he committed to and that his instructor and new friends are there waiting for him to come back!

If you have been dealing with struggles on the March Break – post your comments too! Parents need to hear from each other, not just me!

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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