Over two months into the novel coronavirus pandemic and all its closures and you’ve probably had your fair share of disappointments. Maybe you’ve had to forego important events like weddings, engagement parties, or baptisms. Or even worse, being unable to attend an important funeral.
Perhaps it’s little things like just not getting to be in the zone in your work space, or another week without date night or Girls Night Out.
Granted these things might seem small compared to those working on the front lines, or suffering greater losses. But all our lives are important, including the touchstones and milestones that see us through. And all of us are facing totally unfamiliar circumstances that no one has seen in our lifetimes.
Little Feelings Matter
The same is true for our kids.
School closures, the cancellation of sports seasons, activities, and even regular play dates can feel huge in the life of any child.
And now with your child’s camp program being closed you may wonder just how much more their little hearts can take!
Fortunately children are typically resilient. All they ask of us, if not directly, then implicitly, is that we’re honest with them, meet them where they are, validate them, and model for them a sense of confidence and security.
That said, not all children need to talk about closures. Some are so young that they are, mercifully, focused on the present moment and not living with all the internal chatter and worry about the future that adults often carry.
So what’s the best approach for your camper?
What to Say?
Typically during the pre-camp season I pepper the upcoming camp season’s families with all kinds of camp preparation emails along with packing lists, paperwork, and logistics. Since we held back on much of that this spring, you may not have been talking to your child about camp at all. You may have decided to hold back, not create any expectations, and so not have to weather any disappointments.
If that’s the path you chose — a perfectly excellent path I might add — then do no more. If your child isn’t thinking about and asking about and mentioning camp or what’s going to happen, let it go. Don’t bring it up unless she does. For the littlest kids such thoughts of the future barely register. She’ll be none the worse off if she didn’t remember that camp was on the horizon if it is simply left by the wayside unless or until she asks. And that is OKAY! 🙂
If you chose another equally valid path, that of preparing her for camp and/or mentioning that it might not happen, then you can still take your cues from her. When she asks about camp, or you choose to let her know that it won’t be happening, listen for cues to her feelings and reactions.
If she’s honestly blithe about it, saying something like, “I had a feeling it wouldn’t happen. But can I go next summer?” Then of course we hope you’ll tell her she’s already signed up for next summer! And you don’t have to add, “Are you sure you’re not upset?” as she skips away with a bounce.
If she’s upset, you’ll know. Asking her if she’s upset if she isn’t showing sadness might make her feel she should be upset, confusing her about her own honest feelings.
And for some kids, being sad and upset might be immediately evident — and also normal, and legitimate. It’s so important to validate this for her.
If your child is sad definitely tell her you understand. Let her know it’s okay to feel sad when she’s disappointed or loses something special. Sit with her feelings and continue to take your cues from her.
When she’s ready, you can ask her to tell you about what she’s going to miss at camp. Maybe it’s a friend, special counselor, or being with Mom for Mother-Daughter Weekend. Whatever cues she gives you become clues for how you can work through the feeling.
She can write a postcard to that friend or counselor, and you can plan an at-home Mother-Daughter Slumber Party just for you complete with whatever would make it totally unique, just yours, and something to look forward to!
Maybe your daughter is somewhere in between. She maybe is a little sad, but also hopeful about next summer. Validate that, too.
Help her to embrace her mixed feelings by recalling what it was about camp that she looked forward to and talking about all the fun things to come.
For me the operative approach is to tune in to your child’s cues and go from there. It’s also to validate and then empathize where necessary while also keeping an even vocal tone, and reassuring demeanor. Where there’s disappointment, offer comfort. After comfort, find a healthy way to process the feelings with a positive outcome.
You might also like this handy downloadable from our friends at Camp Ramah Darom about how to cope with kids’ disappointments.
‘Ghany Girls Forever
And we invite you to stay connected with us in any way you deem appropriate for your child’s age and needs.
We do have upcoming virtual camp events on the horizon and links will be sent to families via email for those happenings. Typically we also have reunions in the off-season and if they’re possible this fall/winter we will likely host those in some major central Virginia/DC/Baltimore areas.
Finally there may be some surprises in the mail and other ways to connect — please watch for those too.
If anyone feels they need extra assistance in processing this disappointment for your daughter do reach out, we’re always here to help.
— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls