>>Do you have any advice for doing “damage control” after camp/preschool etc? After being home with me all year my kids had a fantastic summer at an amazing camp- but several weeks later I’m still trying to remedy the things they picked up there- name-calling, saying hurtful things to each other, as well as more tantrums and less listening, etc. Camp was great but is it worth it??<<
I so much understand this question!
The first time we encountered this phenomenon was when my oldest went to sleep away camp for three weeks when he was 12. Camp was a wonderful experience for him but it took three more weeks at home until he returned to his pleasant and relaxed self. The week he came back was the first and only time I ever heard a curse word from the mouth of any of our children. He was much less pleasant to be around; it was like he forgot how to get along with everyone during the time he was away.
I’ve experienced this several times since then. It’s a direct result of kids spending a disproportionate amount of time with their peers. The behavioral changes reflect the increased attachment toward their peers and the diminished attachment to you and your values. Camp and school both can lead to this dynamic, but so can long vacation days at home if your child is playing with friends all day long.
At the beginning of this summer, I set boundaries to proactively address this, and set a limit of four hours a day my kids could play with friends – 11 – 1 and 4 – 6 pm. I purposely didn’t let them play for four solid hours with friends since the break in between was helpful in them reconnecting to me at home. Even so, this was sometimes too much for one child and my older kids kept commenting how nice it would be when we get back to our less peer oriented year round schedule. They’re quick to notice the signs of peer dependence sneaking in!
Time, connection and reasserting boundaries is the answer to this. Your kids need to detox and they need your support and love while they slowly discard the behaviors and speech that they picked up while at camp. Spend as much time in a relaxed and enjoyable way together and try to really enjoy each other.
Then when you see certain behaviors crop up, address them from a place of love and strength. Be clear about what kind of speech and actions create the home environment that you want to have. If you hear someone speaking or acting in a way that isn’t in line with that, gently but firmly help them correct the behavior. (I’ve written at more length about how to establish and enforce boundaries but it’s been a while and you’ll have to search the archives for it.)
An example of something I do with my kids is have them repeat what they wanted to express in an appropriate way. If someone says something like, “You’re so stupid, why are you always bothering me?” one thing you can do is:
A) Reflect back the feeling – ‘you sound frustrated’, ‘it’s hard to have people using your things without permission’.
B) Then move directly into modeling how they can better express that – “A nicer way to express that would be, ‘Please don’t touch my things without my permission.'” Then have them replay the scenario using the words you modeled for them. You can do something similar with physical misbehavior.
Then keep doing that for years and one day you’ll enjoy the benefits!