There are pros and cons to having your kids go to camp in the summer: You could have a little bit of peace and quiet, but having your kids away for so long would mean that you would miss them. Besides, what if other children are mean? What if your kid is miserable? Will there be any bed-wetting issues being far from home?
Why parents worry
Paul Donahue, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of “Parenting Without Fear” said, “Much of our anxiety as parents stems from the fact that there are so many things we cannot control in our children’s lives.”
You may worry about the fact that without structure, kids won’t be able to handle routine tasks such as showering, brushing their teeth, or even getting dressed, but the truth is that most of the time, despite being focused on their kid’s needs, it’s hard for them to take a step back from their parental duties.
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“Concern about the safety of children has become something of a national obsession,” Donahue said.
Parents’ protective instincts always tend to keep them on the edge. However, sometimes parents will have to trust others to take care of their children, and to trust that they can also look out for themselves.
The fear of letting go, however, comes with the fact that without children, there quiet hours may be too much. After all, you have gotten so used to going to baseball practice or piano lessons, or even bedtime routines and movie night.
How to stop it
As parents, worries about your children should not weigh you down. Instead, use it as an opportunity for you to confront your own need to control.
Take a step back. Anxiety about your children will suck you in. Thoughts and emotions will take a toll on you, so you have to step out of the storm and reflect on yourself.
What exactly are you worried about? Question your assumptions – fears may be fueled by irrational beliefs — and as much as you worry about your child, there is no way that camp will return him malnourished and on a candy-eating binge. Wearing dirty clothes won’t kill them either.
What about the temperamental child, though, would he be able to find friends to hang out with on his own? You would never know if you insist on keeping them in their comfort zones.
Have a plan. You can keep your anxieties at bay by making a plan for how you use your time off – like scheduling time with siblings who aren’t going to camp. If they’re all off somewhere, plan a romantic night or an overnight somewhere with your partner. Learn something new, or maybe it’s actually time for Netflix and chill. Use the time to get a change of pace.
If you’re really worried, there are things that you can do before the kids go off for summer. Share stories to your kids about your own time at camp, could be a way for you lessen your anxiety. If you remember your own time at camp, you might not worry too much about your own kids. Besides, it’s going to be a good way to bond with the kids before they have to head out to camp.
Missing your kids will be inevitable, but there are ways to stay connected with them so that they won’t seem too far away. Skype and video calls are great, but there are also more fun ways to do so, like choosing fun postcards and putting a care-package together.
Resist the urge to check in personally at camp. Remember that at some point, kids will need space – let your kid feel independent for a bit, but don’t forget to pack up some supplies so your child can send their own letters home – they will surely want to share their experiences, and you will have something to keep for years to come.
Anxiety is understandable, especially when it comes to your children. But short of putting a GPS tracker on your child, you should be comfortable that a camp that handles dozens of kids would be safe. You shouldn’t let your anxiety stop you from giving your child a great camp experience.
If you had any experience at camp at all, you should be able to share with your kids the childhood memories that you, yourself cherished: nature, new friends, and a time to explore – camp offers all these and more, so for this time, let go of the reins, they will be okay.