DEAR HARRIETTE: My son keeps asking if we are going on vacation this summer. I’m sure it is because most of his private school friends are traveling extensively. We cannot afford to do that. We did put him in camp for two weeks, which he loved, and we also have plans for day trips to nearby beaches. At the end of August, we will make our yearly trip to visit family in North Carolina. But that’s it.
How can I explain to my son that our summer plans work for us, even if they are different from what his friends do? -- Modest Summer, Jersey City, New Jersey
DEAR MODEST SUMMER: It can be difficult to feel comfortable when you are comparing yourself to your peers. This is true for people of all ages. Your job as a parent is to teach your son to value what your family chooses to do, regardless of what his friends do with their summers.
Visiting family is a wonderful ritual that you should talk up so that your son understands how important it is to stay in touch with relatives. You can remind him of the great fun he had at camp. When you take your day trips to the beach and elsewhere, make a big deal out of the experience so that he pays attention. You can also make trips into New York City to visit museums, art shows and outdoor concerts. Many of these activities have nominal costs or are free. Fill your son’s time with exciting adventures that will help him value his own experiences, separate from his friends.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)