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Camps Ease Parental Burden
Though liberated from the classroom, most kids don't know what to do during summer break and after an ecstatic week or so begin to complain of boredom - or get into trouble. Parents now have the option of shipping the discontents off to a number of camps offering fun in a structured environment.

School's out, and the brief grace period - when parents and pupils, free from the stresses of homework, simply delight in each other's company - is over. Throughout the city the whiny refrain of ? "Mom, I'm so booooooored," is greeted with dismay by beleaguered working parents.

The idyllic image of summer fades all too quickly for working parents, replaced with a reality that revolves around dealing with a bored child. When the whines of "there's nothing to dooo!" begin to grate like fingernails on a chalkboard, consider the option of summer camp.

Camp offers kids boredom-busting fun in an organized package - and working parents don't have to plan a thing. The fact is, while most children look forward to the two-month summer break, many find adjusting to the unstructured days difficult. (Overnight camp in China usually extends for one to two weeks.)

The solution, says East China Normal University child psychologist Sang Biao, is to add a little structure to summer vacation in the form of camp. Children do need a break from the routine of school, he says. They need time for relaxation, rejuvenation, and en-joyment, just as adults do. But kids need that leisure time structured.

"If camps are not available, then sit down with your child to discuss what he wants to do this summer vacation. Together, come up with a plan outlining his main objectives, and how you'll achieve these. And don't forget to communicate with him every day," Sang suggests.

Traditional sun-and-fun camps offer structured programs, including swimming and singalongs around the bonfire. In addition, there are specialist camps focusing on one activity like computer skills, music and even weight-loss.

Chang Lele, 7, whose working parents send him to his grandparents every summer, will attend a weight-loss camp this year.

"My son is a couch potato all summer long. All he does is watch TV and eat snacks," says Chen Jun, Chang's mother. "That really worries me, but if I refuse to buy the greasy food he loves, he whines and accuses me of 'not caring.' And my parents always take his side."

Rather than endure another summer of overindulgence and immobility, Chen hopes the weight-loss camp will teach him healthy, lifelong habits. "If he keeps this up, he's not going to be able to lead a normal life. His self-esteem will suffer, his employment prospects will suffer, and his health will suffer."

Andy Lin's 11-year-old son will spend the summer at an academic camp. "I'm concerned that he's spending so much time online these days. I don't know what he's doing, which is worrying, because of all the cyberporn out there. Academic camp will improve his academic performance in the coming year and also has the added benefit of keeping him away from the Web."

Summer is also a time when the accident rate for children surges. According to the city's Children's Hospital, each summer sees a rise in child drownings, bicycle-related injuries, falls, pedestrian-related injuries and car accidents.

The report suggests that this may be due to the fact that children are out of school, spend more time outside and are not supervised as closely as at other times of the year.

The unintentional childhood injury is the No. 1 cause of death in children aged 14 and under, accounting for 26.1 percent of total child death in China. That figure is estimated to grow by 7 to 10 percent annually.

In a bid to counter these alarming statistics, "Parents Safety & Health School" opens this summer, which is hosted by the Shanghai Children's Health Foundation, Fudan University Affiliated Pediatric Hospital and Shanghai Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

The program will reach out to a total of 1,200 kindergartens in seven cities throughout China, including Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. It focuses on educational activities about children's safety at home, medicine safety and traffic safety to enhance the sense of self-protection among children as thus prevent unintentional injuries.

The picture shows that nine-year-old Vali Rothstein from the United States partners with Yang Qinge, 10, during a table tennis match at the Interactival 2002 summer camp.

(eastday.com July 10, 2002)

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