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My four year old started day camp this week and refuses to

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go. Monday he was okay...
My four year old started day camp this week and refuses to go. Monday he was okay, cried a bit when the counsler he was with went to lunch, but was okay for the rest of the day. Yesterday they had a field trip to a water camp, he refused to get in the car, crying hyserically---I let him stay home. Today, they have a field trip to a movie and game room, got him in the car and to the camp, began crying hysterically, refused to stay---despite kids coming up to him asking to play with him and the counselor he liked the first day coming up to him. I offered everything, a toy, ice cream, candy---he said he wants nothing, just to go home. Tomorrow there is a planned field trip to Animal Park. He is normally a VERY social child and makes friends very easily, says hello to everyone, an unuasly open child. Could he be too young? Should I just drop him off crying hysterically and leave? (My sister-whom he is very close to-is dropping him off, as I am in NY and he is in FL with her & my parents)
Submitted: 8 years ago.Category: Parenting
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7/15/2009
Parenting Counselor: danny541, Parenting Answer Team replied 8 years ago
danny541
danny541, Parenting Answer Team
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Hello and welcome to Just Answer!

Its possible as you say he might be too young to deal with camp at this time, but he will be starting school shortly and then you will have no choice but to send him so the upset starts all over again!

Children are going to be afraid at first when they first leave our side,but for their sake we need to push it on through and let them develop for their own good!

It sounds like he is missing some really fun times by not going,so my advice is if the camp can handle his crying at first, let them do it. If he were three,it might be better to keep him at home, but this is something that is going to help him in the long run.

So yes, drop him off,assure him that you or your sister will be back,and its important that you be there on time so that he will be safe with that knowledge!

If you have concerns or questions, please ask,I'm here for you!

If not,please click the green accept button, so the site pays me for my help!

And "POSITIVE FEEDBACK" is "VERY IMPORTANT" to me and a great way to say,"THANK YOU!"
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Thanks for the response. Can you suggest how I can calm him? The camp suggested not going tomorrow as it is another field trip and bringing him on Friday so he can feel a bit more secure since he knows the space. My sister tries to reason with him and then puts him on the phone with me when he starts crying. This is when he gets even more upset, as it turns into a negotation. Is there a technique that tends to work better? For instance, she has been talking to him about the next day the night before....is this causing him more stress as he is worrying about the next day....or is it best to not talk about it at all and just get in the car the next day? I do not want to freak him out, but I do want him to understand that not all situations will be familiar and that sometimes it is uncomfortable and a little scary. HELP, I dont want him to remember this as a traumatic experience for the rest of his life.
Parenting Counselor: danny541, Parenting Answer Team replied 8 years ago
I do feel that it is best not to worry him about it the night before, because he will start to thinking about it and it will make it that much harder.

It is not a good idea to bribe him as you can see, it doesn't work, plus you set up a pattern that will make him realize if I throw a fit mom will give in and allow me to do what I want and get a special prize for it!

You might also try,when there is a field trip show him pictures or a show that will let him know what he is going to do, water trips,you could take him to a pool and show him,"this is what you are doing with your class tomorrow"!

I would also make sure before you go to class that you have as "stress free" of a morning as possible so he will not be anxious about it, in the car, discuss all the fun things he will be learning and getting ready for school in the future, and how great it will be to make friend. It might help also to have a play day with other children to get him used to being with other children!

Give him a quick hug and go! No negotations!Just leave! If they can't handle it they will call you!

He will work through this,but only if you don't give in! Children all over go through this, some are just not ready to let go of a parent!

But eventually he will and then you will realize he is growing into a little person, that is learning and happy with life!

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Parenting Counselor: danny541, Parenting Answer Team replied 8 years ago
I do feel that it is best not to worry him about it the night before, because he will start to thinking about it and it will make it that much harder.

It is not a good idea to bribe him as you can see, it doesn't work, plus you set up a pattern that will make him realize if I throw a fit mom will give in and allow me to do what I want and get a special prize for it!

You might also try,when there is a field trip show him pictures or a show that will let him know what he is going to do, water trips,you could take him to a pool and show him,"this is what you are doing with your class tomorrow"!

I would also make sure before you go to class that you have as "stress free" of a morning as possible so he will not be anxious about it, in the car, discuss all the fun things he will be learning and getting ready for school in the future, and how great it will be to make friend. It might help also to have a play day with other children to get him used to being with other children!

Give him a quick hug and go! No negotations!Just leave! If they can't handle it they will call you!

He will work through this,but only if you don't give in! Children all over go through this, some are just not ready to let go of a parent!

But eventually he will and then you will realize he is growing into a little person, that is learning and happy with life!

If you have concerns or questions, please ask,I'm here for you!

If not,please click the green accept button, so the site pays me for my help!

And "POSITIVE FEEDBACK" is "VERY IMPORTANT" to me and a great way to say,"THANK YOU!"

Ask Your Own Parenting Question
Customer reply replied 8 years ago

Just looking for clarification. You responded that it is best not to talk about camp the night before, but then you also said to show him pictures the day before about the activities planned? My sister showed him the websites of these various places and while he seemed interested, he still did not want to go.

Should I try again tomorrow or skip the field trip and send him on Friday?

The camp is Monday-Friday from 9-5, so there is no opportunity to set up play dates. He already knows a few of the kids from the park and from the first day he went. We talked to him on the way about all the fun things he will do and he still does not want to go.

Also, please keep in mind this is camp not school.

Parenting Counselor: Cher, Teacher replied 8 years ago
Cher
Cher, Teacher
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Hi,Customer

Danny had given you some good suggestions, and I'd like to try to help you further, with your son. First, I do believe four is a pretty young age to go to day camp and take all these field trips; however, I also think it's a great way for him to interact with kids his own age and get to visit some really interesting, fun places and do exciting things. Many four year olds are not emotionally ready to be away from home for so many hours. I experienced this with my own son, at the same age, so I know it's heart-wrenching and can empathize completely, especially if you're not there, physically, to comfort him. You thought you were providing him with a fantastic opportunity to go on vacation to his aunt's and grandparents' and go to camp during the summer, and now he seems miserable. Don't worry; I don't think this experience will have long lasting traumatizing effects.

I think a major part of the problem is related to separation anxiety, because he's here with his aunt and grandparents, with whom he feels comfortable, but you are in NY and not physically with him. Camp is a new experience/adventure, which many children of this age may feel anxious about and cry/not want to go, as you describe.

While showing him the places online where he will go with the camp on field trips, sounds like a good idea so he'll know what to expect and how things will look, his fear of leaving his aunt/grandparents and not being with you, is overriding any interest he may have in seeing these places. I agree that your sister should not talk about what he will be doing in camp the next day, at night, before he goes to sleep, as this is adding to his anxiety. It's important that your sister not appear upset at HIS upset, and just get him dressed, pack his lunch, etc., do all morning activities normally and then tell him it's time to leave/get in the car. Tell her to give him a say in the decision making of the morning ritual, which also may distract and help take his focus off 'I don't want to go to camp'; for example, "which cereal do you want for breakfast; Cheerios or Apple Jacks? which snack do you want with your lunch, THIS OR THAT? Which shorts do you want to put on today, the blue ones or green ones, etc." I'm sure you get the idea.

If he seems to be alright at the camp itself, has bonded with a particular counselor, and doesn't make as big of a fuss at going, if he'll remain on the camp grounds, I would not force him to go on these field trips. Is it too late to enroll him in a different type of camp that stays on the grounds and doesn't take as many field trips? If you pay by the week, and/or if the camp is willing to reimburse you for time not spent there, you may be able to find another program that is better suited to his current needs.

I completely agree with you that he needs to learn there will be unfamiliar situations in life, which he will need to get used to/adapt to, and then he will enjoy them, but again, he just might not be emotionally mature enough to understand this or handle this situation, being away from home and then, in addition, being away from his aunt's/grandparents' home from 9-5 every day. (I got the impression you live in NY and he's spending time in FL with your sister and your parents. But, perhaps you had to go to NY, and he does live in FL?)

See if you or your sister can find a half-day camp program for him, so he spends less hours away from her, and if he seems to be adapting well, perhaps she can change it to a full day, if he seems to want this.

I have one more idea that might help: have your sister discuss a favorite activity he will do when he comes home from camp, so he can look forward to that, and focus on the 'end' of the day, which should decrease his anxiety while he's at camp. Also, ask if any counselors stay behind, when the camp goes on these field trips, and perhaps he can stay with them and do activities that are familiar and which he likes, instead of going on the bus to the field trip activity.

I hope you, your sister and your parents are able to reach a happy medium with him, re: the camp situation, even if a change in camp needs to be made, if possible.


Cher
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

Thanks for your response. He lives in NY, but has spent a lot of time in FL. He is normally at preschool from 8-6, 5 days a week, sometimes 6, so he is used to long days away from home. He is a very social kid, who normally has no problem getting used to new surroundings, in fact his recent "report card", the director of the preschool said that he is advanced for his age. That is why I am so confused by this situation. It could be as simple as not wanting to get on a bus, or he did mention that some boy pushed him, so he may feel anxiety over that. We are having my father in law from England come to Miami to take him to camp (my sister refuses as this is too stressful for her...she is pregnant and very emotional), my son trusts his grandfather and I think that both will be more secure during drop off. While my father in law is sweet and nurturing, he is confident and direct....hoping he will not engage my son in a negotation.

Thanks again!

Parenting Counselor: Cher, Teacher replied 8 years ago
Hi again Laura, and you're most welcome! Thanks very much for your reply and your accept.

I was going to ask you if your son has already had a pre-school experience, and I'm glad you included that information; I agree, that if he's used to being in a school atmosphere for a full day, 5-6 days a week, he should have adapted to the camp atmosphere, as well. However, he's still away from home, away from YOU, and camp is different from school. I think the bus may be part of the problem, causing anxiety, as you suggested.

It's great that your father in law will be able to come from England to Miami to take him to camp! If he and your son are close, his grandfather is nurturing, yet firm, your son should be less likely to give him a problem, and your sister does not need the stress, if she's expecting. You're both pregnant at the same time? That's great; The cousins will be close in age!

I wish you much luck and hope your son is able to enjoy the rest of the camp season!

Cher
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