How Not to Worry When Your Kid Goes to Camp

How not to worry when your kid goes to camp!

If your kids are going to camp this spring or summer, you may be wrestling with worries and what-ifs. What if the other kids are cliquish or mean? Will the camp director call me if she’s miserable? What if he wets the bed?

WHY PARENTS WORRY
“Much of our anxiety as parents stems from the fact that there are so many things we cannot control in our children’s lives,” says Paul Donahue, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of “Parenting Without Fear”. You may worry that without structure kids won’t be able to handle routine tasks like showering, brushing teeth or getting dressed. One mom I know felt so sure her son wouldn’t change clothes at camp that she packed his items – one pair of underwear, shorts, shirt, and socks – in gallon-size Ziploc bags, labeled with the days of the week.

Because parents focus so much on kids’ needs, it’s hard to step back. Coverage of natural disasters and child predators makes the world seem scary. “Concern about the safety of children has become something of a national obsession,” Donahue observes. Even though our protective instincts keep us on edge, sometimes we have to trust others to care for our kids, and trust our kids to look out for themselves.

Fear of letting go can also be driven by our own uncertainty about who we are without our kids and what we’ll do while they’re away. Without baseball practice, piano lessons, bedtime routines and movie night, our lives would be slower and saner and…emptier.

HOW TO STOP IT
Don’t let worries weigh you down. Use them as an opportunity to confront your own needs for safety, control and closeness. Here’s how.

Step back. Anxieties have a way of sucking you in. Your thoughts and emotions may be swirling like a tornado around you. Get out of the eye of the storm and reflect on your feelings. What (exactly) are your worries? Write them down so you can face them head on.

Question your assumptions. Fears may be fueled by irrational beliefs. Kids don’t suffer serious malnutrition from week-long candy binges. Wearing dirty clothes won’t kill them either. Concerned your temperamental child won’t fit in socially? Allow for the possibility she’ll find buddies to hang out with all on her own. Don’t let your beliefs limit kids’ potential.

Keep goals in mind. Ultimately, parents want kids to become self-reliant, says Donahue, and building self-reliance requires parents do less, not more for their kids. Camp builds competence and independence. Give your kids time to stretch beyond their comfort zones.

Have a plan. Keep anxieties in control by making a plan for how you’ll use your “time off.” Schedule special time with siblings who aren’t going to camp. Plan a romantic date or overnight getaway with your spouse. Learn something new or catch up on your favorite shows. Stay busy (but in a good way). You deserve a change of pace, too.

Share stories. One sure-fire way to break out of anxiety is to remember and share the fun times you had at camp with your kids. The time you flipped your canoe over and got sopping wet in the lake shouldn’t be a secret. Kids love to hear about parents’ adventures.

Stay connected. Find fun postcards, print pictures of family pets, and collect care-package items to send. Getting mail from home makes kids feel special. Resist the urge to check in: kids need space. Don’t forget to send supplies so your kids can send letters home. They’ll want to share their experiences and you’ll treasure their letters forever.

Anxiety is understandable, but it shouldn’t stop you from sending kids off to camp. It’s likely that many of your cherished childhood memories involve nature, new friends, and time to explore on your own – summer camp offers all these opportunities and more. It’ll be OK if they stay up too late, eat burned marshmallows, or lose their swim goggles in the lake. Really. 

-------------------
Heidi Smith Luedtke, is a personality psychologist and mom of two adventurous kids. She is the author of Detachment Parenting.

Published: March 2014




Famed Coding Camp Hits San Diego Shores

Famed Coding Camp Hits San Diego Shores

ADVERTISEMENT – Leading Coding (programming) for kids and STEAM (Science, Technology, Arts, Math and Engineering) education innovator – CodeREV – has expanded its popular tech summer camps to ge . . .

Read more

Teens: Volunteer for Summer Camp at theNAT

Teens: Volunteer for Summer Camp at theNAT

Like many high schoolers, I am required by my school to do a minimum of 50 hours of community service. Community service projects like school clean-ups can be awful and boring, but the summer of my ju . . .

Read more

Benefits of Learning to Sail

Benefits of Learning to Sail

Sailing is an incredible experience that has lifelong value and rewards for kids. Consider sailing lessons and camps as you plan your child’s summer activities.1. Time outdoors. Sailing is an ideal . . .

Read more

12 Ways to Make Summer Learning Fun

12 Ways to Make Summer Learning Fun

Help your child retain reading, writing and math skills this summer without making it feel like work.  Incorporate learning into daily errands and interactive activities found in your own backyar . . .

Read more

Junior Lifeguard Programs

Junior Lifeguard Programs

Swim to Ocean Safety: Have Fun this Summer with San Diego Junior LifeguardsFind local Junior Lifeguard programsEvery summer thousands of kids in Junior Lifeguard uniforms gather at San Diego beaches f . . .

Read more

Time For Camp

Time For Camp

Summer’s almost here! Time to plan a summer of fun for your kids. Find the perfect summer camp for your artist, athlete or animal lover in our listing of traditional and specialty day and reside . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!