My child is going away to a summer program for the first time - how do I reassure him?
My son competed for a slot in an elite summer program for gifted math and science students and won a slot. He will be in the Chicago area several hours from home for 10 days and he's never been away before. He struggles socially in his school here, but there he will be around other kids who share common interests. I've tried to point this out to reassure him, but he's convinced the other kids will probably hate him. What can I do to help his anxiety so that he doesn't end up sabotaging himself and not having fun?
His anxiety may not completely go away before leaving due to the fact that this is his first time away. It's normal for a child to experience this before being put in a new environment. I would suggest sitting with him and showing him some of the great things he will get to do there. Focus only on the positives and if he brings up a negative, then try to counteract that with a positive. Continue being encouraging and reassure him, but do realize that he probably won't snap out of it until he is surrounded by the other kids and realizes that they are like him. Make sure he knows that you will be available by phone if he needs anything while he is away.
I hope that he has a great time at summer camp!
There are few things about your son that you definitely want to change. You agree that his social skills are poor, may have few friends at school and is over anxious. However some kids though intellectually superior may be poor in communication skills, which become more apparent when in the company of not so familiar people. I assume he will also be a shy temperament who does not speak much but likes to stick close to his mother.
I would suggest you to do things that would boost his self esteem:
Tell him that you mean a lot on the effort he has put that got him selected for the camp and not for the outcome of the camp. Sit with him and make plans for the trip. Ask him what he has prepared. Praise his ideas. Reassure the fears he may be having. Boost his confidence level by making him do small small responsibilities by himself. Make his mind preoccupied with the fun he will be having with maths (which he enjoys), than the thought of the crowd there (which is embarrassing). You can also possibly help him do some excavation on the net and find out other kids who are joining him in the camp. Lets hope, this camp, which is his first one away from home, improves his social skills as much as it does his maths.
I have a gifted son too and I had to find creative ways to introduce new things so he would accept them. . I hooked up with two other moms whose kids were going ( I told the coordinator to give my name to the mothers of two kids who were like Cameron) and the 3 of them talked on computer for a few days before they left so that they were friends by the time they got there. If you haven't done so already, let him check out the website showing the program's agenda and pictures in the activity album showing what they do there. Look the schedule over and see how much free time he will have after the structured part of the day is over so you can get an idea of how much socialization time he will have.
Make sure he has respite (comfort) bag to go to during the program's down time. These are his things he brings from home that he enjoys - nothing real valuable, just Kindle for his books, a hand held electronic toy, whatever his interests are so he has something comforting in alone time. We had to put a limit on our son because his respite bag had more than his suitcase, so we told him to pick out 1 item for each day he was away. Our son loaded his Kindle with lots of books, but when he got to the program they had a very comprehensive library. He prefers real books to reading on a Kindle, so the library was like heaven to him.
I don't know if your program allows phone calls to home, but Cameron's program allowed 1 call per day to home. It was a computer camp so he emailed us alot too.
On that first day emails rather low spirited but by the 2nd day he was much better because they were busier and the friendships he made on the computer with the other 2 boys were going better by then..
We also gave him something to look forward to when he got home. He picked out his favorite meal so I prepared it the first night. Then we involved him in the planning of a day trip within a week after he came home to go to his favorite place. I also gave him a small copybook (4x6in) that you get in the $1 store and told him to use it if he wanted to put his thoughts down on paper. Each kid got a locked foot locker, so that was important to our son who is lock conscious.
It went very well and he looked forward to going back the next year. By the 3rd year,he was hired as a junior counselor. When he graduated he worked for 2 summer sessions until we moved to a new state. I hope some of these suggestions we used will be helpful to you. Above all, don't let him see you upset
You don't mention how old he is, so, to me, that might be a factor. Maybe he really isn't as ready to be away from home for that long (and maybe either doesn't want to say it, or else doesn't even recognize it himself).
Something else, though - and that's that I'd be more concerned with addressing the fact that he says he thinks the other kids will hate him. Again, depending on his age, I don't know if I'd even encourage him to go if he wasn't completely enthusiastic about it and acting like he was completely sure he wanted to go. Maybe it depends on if he's really "completely convinced", only "kind of worried about the issue".
Just throwing out some "maybe's", but maybe he liked the idea of "elite" when he applied (and before he had to deal with the realities of having been accepted).
To my thinking (and it's only my thinking), one of "maybe's" could be that he's just not someone who really wants to go to that particular thing (maybe because he isn't someone who comfortably fits into some types of programs/activities).
I mean.. to me, if he isn't completely thrilled with having the opportunity then there's something about it that's not right for him. On the one hand, if he's only mildly nervous about whether he'll find friends then simple reassurances that he most likely will find at least a friend or two ought to do. If he's more than "normal, mildly-nervous" I think I'd make sure he was completely comfortable with the idea of saying he decided he didn't really want to go after all.
One question might be what, exactly, will he get from the program (if he's already gifted in math/science) that he really needs anyway (or that he can't pursue on his own anyway)? I suppose my "thing" is that if I had a child with that kind of issue I might try to find shorter-time/distance activities that might help him get a little past any social problems he has,
For a kid (regardless of age) to even consider that the other kids are going to hate him... that's a real concern because the world is full of gifted children who don't have social problems.
With only the information provided here, I suppose if it were my son (and if it were at all possible) I'd let him know he could go, see if he liked it OK enough, and let him know that if he hated it after a couple/few days he could come home.
Inside, he either really wants to go or doesn't. I'd make sure he has a face-saving "out", if nothing else. If he's ready and wants to go he will.
He's 14 and it's at one of the top schools in the country - I would not force him into something that he wasn't ready for. He competed fiercely for this. Don't think he would have if he didn't want it. Trust me, it's right for him just nervous
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