14 Jul Overnight Camp: Survival Guide for Parents
The kids are off to overnight camp! Which parent of summer campers are you? Are you one of the “I can’t wait till they’re off” folks, or the “I can’t wait till they come home” types? The former are often parents of veteran campers, or moms/dads who had great overnight camp experiences themselves, and eagerly envision their children experiencing the same. The latter is admittedly more challenging. It’s an uncomfortable feeling…the sense that something is a little “off,” a perpetual worry that plays in your gut, a pensive anticipation at random moments…this is the stuff that extended separations from our children produce in parents of fledgling overnight campers. But fear not, because the experience is not only temporary, but growth-promoting, for parents and kids alike.
What Your Kids Need
They need to know that you’re ok…so that they can be ok! If you focus too much on telling your child how much you will miss them, or anticipate every possible issue or concern that might potentially arise, they may begin to question your belief that they can handle the experience. It is best to envision the best possible outcomes your child may have, and keep that in mind when interacting during the weeks and days leading up to their departure.
They need to know that you believe they are capable. Most overnight camps don’t allow parents to call or text their child while at camp for this very reason: to allow kids to adjust and be successful away from their parents. When your child starts to think of all the “what ifs” that can happen at camp, reassure your camper that she can think through options and problem-solving, as well as taking appropriate risks in reaching out to new friends and camp counselors. The potential for developing self-confidence starts with sons and daughters meeting new challenges with an open mind, and a silenced cell phone.
What You Need
As important as enabling your child to feel competent, is to recognize that you as the parent are capable of enjoying a summer camp break as well! It’s great to spend some time focusing on yourself, or engaging in a little extra couples-time, or perhaps spending some special one-on-one time with other kids or family members while your camper is away. Replenishing your own energy and resources is a great gift to yourself, and provides an important example to your kids about good self-care, as well.
So…what happens if your kid struggles during camp, or wants to come home? Rather than over-react, consider the possibility that a teaching moment has arrived. Would you hop in the car and bring Junior home, acknowledging that it’s too difficult to tolerate loneliness or upset or anxiety (and yes, that includes YOU tolerating those feelings in yourself)? Or, would your child benefit from encouragement that there is something she/he can do to feel better, that the difficult feelings won’t last forever and that they can make choices, both attitude and action-based, that will help them tolerate the experience with an open mind and heart. When a kid learns how to make themself feel better, even just a little bit, it
Dori earned her Master of Social Work from The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams College of Social Work in 1997. She also has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dori has worked with children, adolescents, and families since 1994 in several areas of social work including: foster care, schools, hospitals, and private practice. She earned her Type 73 school social work certification in 1997 and has worked with children of all needs in the public schools for 7 years. She knows the importance of collaborating with parents, teachers and school staff (with parental consent) to provide the most beneficial services. Dori has also been interviewed on ABC and NBC news as an expert discussing therapeutic topics and articles she has written. As a wife and mother of three, she understands the challenges and rewards of raising children and is compassionate about helping children and families navigate the difficult times. Dori prides herself on being a valuable coach and “cheerleader” to the families she serves and strives to give families the tools they will need to improve their quality of life long after therapy ends. As a wife, and mother of three, she understands the challenges and joys of raising children and works with you every step of the way.