The cautious child – the one who is sensitive, maybe shy with a serious temperament, can be one of the toughest to manage during these raucous camp days. Parents want their child to have lots of friends, fun in the sun and go wild at camp but these kids may have another idea or other needs.
One of the trickiest things about figuring out how to set up and manage the camp situation is that we sometimes send our kids into experiences that are the opposite of their comfort zones. We think that if our cautious child spent some time in a happy-go-lucky, stimulating environment for a week or more, they would find the enjoyment and thrill in these activities. It is also painful to see our kids be so reticent to join in the fun. We see them feeling hurt when they are excluded, see them withdraw to play by themselves and we want something different for them.
If you have a cautious child and are looking for the perfect camp for your child, consider these tips to help manage your child’s time at camp. This tips should help him or her get the most out of the summer camp experience.
Watch for Easy Fatigue in the Cautious Child
Make sure he has opportunities to rest or engage in quiet play at certain points throughout the day. Set this up before the first day at camp so everyone including the child, counselor, camp director, and parent, knows what to expect.
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Consider the Social Pressure on the Cautious Child
Social pressures are a huge issue for these kids and can make camp strenuous and draining.
Role-play some of the situations that may occur at camp so your child has a response ready when they do occur.
Schedule 1:1 play dates to practice social situations and to help your child gain confidence in her ability to make and keep friends. Even if camp is a difficult place for your child to make friends, knowing she can make at least one friend in the camp can help her maintain her confidence and sense of OK-ness.
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Do the camp director and staff understand neurodiversity? Help the camp staff to appreciate that your child may have sensory-based or language challenges that make certain activities extremely difficult and possibly unappealing for him. Understanding is the first step in helping.
Seek Out a Quiet Counselor for Your Cautious Child
Seek out a counselor who may be quieter than the others – one who may be a good listener, and talk to her about your child’s cautious temperament. Make sure she knows you do not expect your child to participate in every wild and crazy activity.
Alternatively, make sure the camp staff doesn’t over-compensate by letting your child off the hook and not expecting him to participate in anything. Teach the staff how to break down activities into small components and ask them to encourage your child to choose and do at least part of each activity.
When Your Cautious Child Exclaims”I Don’t Wanna Go”
Here’s a tough one. You sought out and paid for a quality camp. You searched the world over (slight exaggeration but isn’t that how it feels sometimes?) to find a camp that would support your child. A camp to help him grow and develop in numerous ways and provide him with good, safe, fun.
About Wednesday of the first week your child says, “I don’t want to go to camp. I don’t like it there.” Hmmmm…what do you do?
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Stay Home – One Day
Every child is different of course but here is what I recommend. If possible, let your child stay home one day. Make sure he knows it is only one day. After all, you understand that, for him, it’s hard to be in this ever-changing, loud, social, and demanding environment. Make sure he also knows that the camp is a great place to have fun and learn new things. Ensure he knows that he will be going back after this “break-day”.
Day Off Discussions
During the day off, talk about the things you know your child has liked at camp. When the pressure is off and he doesn’t have to convince you he hates the camp and should stay home, he is more likely to find good things about the camp to talk about.
Find that Understanding Counselor
When he returns to camp the next day, find that counselor you sought out initially. Remember the one who understands your child’s temperament? Talk to her with your child present. The counselor can be reassuring to your child and help him feel that someone is watching out for and taking care of his sensitive self as you leave.
Wishing you and your cautious child a delightful and fulfilling summer!