Written by Mrs. Elina Diamandaki, Psychologist, MSc
For many children crying is not a sign of weakness or a reflection of sadness, it is actually a way to process emotions. Children usually cry because they fear that their parents will abandon them and will not come back for them. Perhaps children’s excessive attachment to their mother makes it difficult for them to stay away from home. Another fear may be that they suddenly find themselves in a new environment, with unknown people, out of the safety of their home, where they need to develop new skills, in order to adapt. On the other hand, it is important for parents to wonder how to deal with the separation and what this transition means to them…
- Let your kids express their fear … it’s “okay to feel that way!”
- Show them clearly that you understand and sympathize with their feelings, that you love them, that you will not leave them there forever, but you will take them back on the agreed date.
- Give them a specific schedule and plan regarding their communication with you and your visits to the camp e.g. assure them of the hours you can communicate with and that you will be consistent with your visits, according to the camp’s program. Make sure you do not cancel visits you’ve agreed to make, because it might cause them stress.
- Encourage them to continue to express their feelings.
- Show them that they are strong enough to stay away from home and have an unforgettable time at the camp.
- Reward them by telling them how well they have done so far, for example, “It has been three days already so I am sure you can make it for three more days easily”
- Draw their attention away from negative feelings by giving them the motivation to engage with fun activities, for example, “Tomorrow when we talk on the phone, I really want you to tell me something new you have learned!”
- Discuss again the goals you have set for the camp and define those which might be unrealistic and difficult to achieve.
- Encourage them to talk to you about their new experiences, knowledge and skills they have managed to gain, to talk to you about something they have successfully done and about what makes them feel good.
- Ask if there is something else they would like to do at the camp and encourage them to try it.
- For things that did not go well, reassure them that it does not matter and they will do better next time! Reward them for something they are very good at!
- Mentioning how much money you spent on the Greek camp.
- Offending them by stating that their behavior is childish.
- Comparing them to other children.
- Pushing them to ignore their feelings or mentioning that they exaggerate.
- Reminding them about departure date.
- Often telling them that if they miss you too much, you will immediately go and take them back. This might make them feel more homesick and also might deprive them of the opportunity to try to acquire new skills and strategies to deal with separation.
On the way back…
After the children leave the camp it is advisable that they receive encouragement and reward for their success of staying there, but also that they have the time to adapt to the old family habits and rules. It is also important to discuss their experience and what they learned in the camp but also help them maintain and generalize the new acquired skills. For example, “I saw that in the camp you were making your bed very well, you can continue to
do it at home!”
If “recipes” and instructions do not work…
If, of course, your child faces problems in eating and sleeping, you may need to take your child back home. Do not behave like they have failed. Reassure and reward them for as long as they managed to stay assuring them that there will be other opportunities to take advantage of and that next time they will be able to stay longer in the camp. Perhaps they were not ready for the Greek language summer camp or even this way of fun is not suitable for them. For this reason, do not consider yourself as a failed parent or the child as an unsuccessful one.
Each child is unique, so respectfully embrace their uniqueness