Guest post by Kristine Stivali
This is a very exciting time for your son, but with a little bit, or maybe I should say a good bit, of preparation you can make this experience less nerve racking for yourself and for him. I know one of the hardest jobs as a parent is letting go and allowing your child to fly.
Here is a long overdue list of skills and considerations for parents to think about when preparing to send their son to a summer intensive program (SI). Hopefully you will find these tips make it easier for you while giving your child the tools and confidence he needs to make the SI a positive experience for all of you.
Communication – Social Related Issues
This section is really general parenting but hit home this summer when our son was away at an SI program with older boys and limited supervision in the dorms. Temptation will be there, but if you have reinforced your beliefs and values with your son, you will be surprised that what you taught him sank in. With that said:
- Make sure your son knows your expectations and how you feel about your family values. Even though he is away, make it known what your expectations are regarding his behavior and what your family rules may be. These include things such as curfew, having members of the opposite sex in your room, going out, personal safety, smoking, drugs, and alcohol.
- Depending on the age of your son you may want to discuss issues regarding personal safety. Not to frighten him but to make him “street smart,” especially if he will be alone in a large city.
If you are fortunate and able to take your child to their SI, I highly recommend doing so. I would allow for additional time to get them situated so they know where the ATMs, grocery stores, studios, and eateries are located. Last summer when we took our son to New York City we walked around the neighborhood and made sure he was comfortable with where the subway was located. Additionally, we rode the subway to and from his dance studio so he knew where to go, what train to take, how to use his subway pass, and, more important, how much time it would take him to get from the apartment to class each day.
If you are not able take your son you can still prepare him ahead of time by having him do research online such as:
- Put together a list of grocery stores, eateries and ATMs. Highlight them on a map of the area.
- Research and learn about the city he will be living in.
- Have them look at departure and arrival Boards so they know how to read them.
- Study the bus and subway maps of the area to familiarize him with how the routes are laid out.
- Have him hail a taxi and talk to them about taxi stand locations.
- Teach him how to properly tip after a meal.
- Check into pre-paid mass transportation cards. With SIs that are four weeks or longer it is typically cheaper to purchase a monthly or weekly fare pass rather than paying a per ride fare.
- Have them see what landmarks are around their dorms and studios.
Doing some research ahead of time also will give them something to look forward to and get them excited about the new city they will be calling home for the summer.
Discuss with your child the expectations you have regarding what they can spend. Get him in the habit before leaving for the summer on how to budget his money. We started this process by getting our son a debit card and depositing a weekly allowance on the card and working with him to budget his money before he left. This allowed us to monitor his expenditures and to put money on his card for unexpected expenses. We ordered his debit card at a credit union which tends to be more flexible concerning age requirements and allows for a wider range of ATMs that can be used at no charge.
- If you opt for a prepaid card or gift card, please make sure you understand the limitations and restrictions on use for these cards. Many prepaid cards cannot be used overseas and fees for ATMs can be very high.
- Show your child how to use his debit card and have your son make purchases and ATM withdrawals before he leaves. This allows him to budget and also builds confidence on how to use his card.
- Have him memorize his PIN number and keep the number handy in case he forgets it. Also, instruct him when using the machine if he inputs his number incorrectly more than twice to call home and not attempt a third time. The third time is usually not a charm and results typically in the card getting flagged by security (yes, this happened to our son) who then received a call from security and was unprepared to handle.
- Make sure he knows the last four digits of his SSN (only the last four) as the security department will require this information if they have to reset the flag on the account. Also, security often times cannot talk to the parents but has to talk directly with your son.
- Also, let the banking institution know ahead of time that your son will be traveling. Giving the dates and location so that security holds or flags will not be put on the account.
- Prior to arriving, and this can be something you give to your son, put together a list of all free ATMs conveniently located near his dorm or studio. Nothing worse than having their money eaten up in fees. If there are no free ATMs nearby, instruct him to take more money out than he needs. Withdrawing cash from an ATM daily to take out twenty dollar and have as much as $5 dollars in fees with each transaction is not effective.
I have heard many stories of parents who are horrified when they pick up their sons how much weight they have lost and come to find out their son either saved money and bought other things with it or just did not like the food at the SI. Communicate your expectations regarding taking care of yourself and nutrition. Nutrition is essential given the level of dance they will be doing at their SI. Additionally, many programs do not offer meal plans so they are on their own to make decisions regarding meals.
- Work with your son on simple meals he can prepare in a dorm setting or healthy snacks he can fix. Have him try them at home prior to leaving. Keep the ingredients and kitchen utensil requirements simple. It is important to note that many schools have kitchens but do not have pots or pans for them to use or limited kitchen facilities. Have him try his hand at cooking a meal or a snack for himself before he leaves.
- Pack a bowl, plate, and mug along with a setting of silverware even if he is on a meal plan.
You hope your child gets through the summer with no problems, but things happen…especially when children dance harder and longer than usual.
- Make sure his studio knows his medical history and what medications he is currently taking in the event he gets sick or hurt at the SI.
- Make sure they have any medications he will need for the SI (both over the counter and prescription medications). Each SI is different and will have requirements about whether or not your son will need to medicate himself or if he is required to furnish to a staff member who will handle this. If he is self-medicating, make sure he knows how much he can take and how often. Many states will require the schools to have a copy of the actual prescription and to also have a prescription for over the counter medication. Make sure you are aware of the requirements ahead of time.
- Send your son with a copy of his Insurance cards for medical, dental, and prescription drugs. Each SI is different regarding this; some get this information upfront from the parents while others rely on the parent to have furnished this to their child in the event of an emergency.
This may be the first time your child has to do his own laundry…and he’ll have a lot of it!
- Teach your child how to separate and operate a washer and dryer. Be prepared for that call “hey mom/dad this washer does not have the same buttons as ours” which button do I push. During our son’s first SI we got a frantic call that the buttons were not labeled the same. So if you take your son to his SI you may want to go down to the laundry room in the dorm or student housing to walk through how to use the machines.
- Teach him how to hand wash and quick air dry clothes as he may need to do this in a bind or have hand-wash only tights. My son learned this when preparing for a People to People trip to Europe and I believe the quick air dry method they call the Mexico Hat Dance. This is where they roll wet laundry in a towel and dance on it so you do not have wet laundry that takes days and days to dry.
- Where to find garment care instructions and what they mean.
- REALLY IMPORTANT: Many schools do not have change machines or loadable laundry cards so send with your son enough quarters to get him through the summer. Given their dance schedules this can be a difficult task for him to get change in order to do his laundry.
- Basic mending skills so they can sew a ballet shoe or handle any other garment related emergency.
- Discuss how often to wash their linens and towels. Did not have to worry on this one as my son is a germaphobe but have talked to several parents where their sons or daughters never wash their linen .
- Discuss with your son the need to keep items off the floor. In some places, like New York, bedbugs are a huge issue, such as at my son’s SI in New York last year. Bedbugs typically hang out in carpeting and will get into suitcases and clothing that is left on the floor.
About the Author
Kristine Stivali, Dance Mom, is an assistant vice president for Application Delivery Management for Protective Life Insurance. Prior to joining Protective, Kris held positions with several fortune 500 companies in the telecommunication and financial service industry. She has over 28 years of IT experience
Kris earned a dual degree from Georgia Institute of Technology and Berry College in Industrial Engineering and Business Administration.
Kris’s most important role, though, is Dance Mom to her 15 year old son, an aspiring ballet dancer. Her son began his dance training with Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute in the late summer of 2011 and he has attended a number of summer intensives over the last two years and will be returning to Ellison Ballet this summer. He currently is attending the year around program at the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts.
Additionally, in the summer of 2011 her son was selected to study aboard for several weeks in Europe, which helped to prepare their family for SIs and eventually him leaving home to attend a year round ballet program. Her son is very fortunate to have a supportive and involved Dance Dad and stepbrother, both of whom have helped him through this journey as well.
Photo courtesy of MikLav.