Hometown North Reading
Help! My almost 5 year old twins are having serious separation anxiety this summer. They cry and scream before going to their day camp and my son just refuses to go to swimming lessons. Keep in mind, they have been taking swim lessons at the same place (different teacher) since January without any problem and they have been taking various pre-school classes with their day camp counselors since the fall. I've given in and allowed my son to drop out of swim lessons completely and there have been a few days I've just kept them home completely from camp. I am sure this isn't the right thing to do, but don't know what else to do. Any thoughts?
From: Kerry, North Reading, MA
What makes you think this is a separation issue? Sounds more like it's got something to do with the swimming. In fact, your letter made me remember when my son was this age and refused to go to day camp even though he had liked it the year before. I couldn't figure it out until I asked a simple question: "What do you wish could be different about day camp?" He said: "The noise."
A little more probing and I had it: He was old enough that year for his group to be using the "big" locker room (this was one of the camps at a private day school) and there was a fierce echo in the space. Luckily, the counselors were sympathetic and someone was able to take him to change in a different space. It was a great lesson for him (to be able to identify what was bothering him and get a remedy) and for me (to ask a simple, direct question).
It's not always this easy, of course. But keep in mind that sensory issues are big at this age. Hating swimming may not be about the swimming at all but about the noise in the pool, the splashing, the smell of chlorine. Who knows? Kids who are used to pools may hate a lake or the ocean or vice versa.
You're right, keeping them home may make it more difficult to get them go back because you've basically unwittingly told them, "you're right not to want to be there." My suggestion is to talk with the camp director and counselors and see what ideas they have for why they don't like it, and for how to get them back. I guarantee your kids aren't the first to not want to go to camp. (Are they separated from each other? Could that be the issue?) I suggest having a meeting with the boys and the counselors and see if that helps. Worst case is that you'll have to start over again with a new camp next year. But if it's possible, get them back there even for just a few days so they can master whatever it is that bothered them.
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