Apr 2, 2015 9:26:36 GMT -5
Post by ACADEMY FACULTY [INACTIVE] on Apr 2, 2015 9:26:36 GMT -5
PARENTS FEELINGS: CHILDSICK?
I couldn’t help it at first. Last summer was the first time that Owen had ever spent more than a day away from home. I kept thinking to myself, “He’s 9 years old. He’ll be just fine at camp.” And then I’d think, “He’s only 9 years old! Will he be fine at camp?” I know some of my anxiety rubbed off on Owen, because he started reassuring me; telling me he’d be OK. We’d made the decision together, but camp was still hard at first. Of course, after a week, Owen loved it. He’s excited to go back this summer. -Owen’s mom, Teodora
For me, the best thing was to talk with other parents who had already sent their kids to camp. It was very reassuring to know that they worried about the same things I did. Now I enjoy talking to parents who are sending their kids to overnight camp for the first time. I tell them, “This is the best experience your kid will ever have away from home. She will come back a changed person. More unselfish and more energized.” -Michelle’s dad, Brendan
I worried because we didn’t get any letters for almost 10 days. I finally had to call camp and talk to Louise’s cabin leader. She promised me that Louise was having a great time, which explains why she didn’t have the impulse to write. I missed her a lot, but I also knew that camp was going to be good for her. I was surprised at how independent and confident she became. It’s great to see. - Louise’s mom, Gin
The personal testimonies above are true. A lot of parents get “childsick” when their son or daughter is at camp. Of course, all parents enjoy the “free” time they have while their kids are away, but It's normal for parents to be anxious while a son or daughter is away.... sometimes that freedom feels empty. Parents miss their kids just like kids miss their parents. It’s not always easy to spend a few weeks apart, especially if it’s the first time your child has been away from home.
If you’re like most parents, you have mixed feelings. You want your child to have a great time at ccamp, but you’re nervous about whether she’ll be OK on her own. Without a doubt, reading this book and carefully selecting a camp together will go a long way toward reducing any nervousness. The time you spend now is an investment in your child’s happiness. But let’s face it. It’s normal to be a little nervous when you’re not personally there to supervise your child. For those parents who have children with special needs, the separation may be even more difficult. No one knows your child better than you do. How could they? What camp staffs do know is how to keep kids safe and happy. They know how to run a camp.
In this chapter, we’ll give you tips to help you enjoy yourself while your son or daughter is at overnight camp. If you don’t have any concerns right now, skip this chapter. You can always return to it.
Parents tell us that they know camp “works” because they see positive changes in their children’s behavior. It will be interesting to see exactly what you notice when your son or daughter returns home. Of course, just knowing how valuable camps are isn’t going to keep you from being concerned. Let’s take a look at the research.
A few years ago, we studied parents’ anxiety about their kids’ going to camp. Several hundred Many parents feel that summer camp is great for their children. parents were asked to rate how much they agreed with statements such as, “Summer camp is good for children,” and “When I am away from my child, I feel lonely and miss him a lot.” Almost all parents strongly agreed with the following statements:
- Summer camp is good for children.
- Children learn important social and athletic skills at summer camp.
- My child will benefit from group experiences since they will provide him with social experiences that he could not get at home.
- It is good for my child to spend time away from me so that she can learn to deal independently with unfamiliar people and new situations.
- Children are happy and have fun at summer camp.
No surprises, right? Sounds like a confident group of parents who know what’s good for their kids and who recognize the value of camping. No doubt you agree with these statements, too. But don’t worry, you’re not alone in your concern either. The very same parents also agreed with statements like the following:
- I miss my child when I am away from him.
- When I am away from my child, I often wonder whether she is all right.
- Hugging my child makes me feel so good that I really miss the physical closeness when I’m away.
It’s normal, then, to experience a combination of wanting your child to go to camp and being concerned about her well-being. There are two important things to remember about these mixed feelings. First, avoid expressing them to your child. Instead, strive to convey a uniformly positive message about camp. Your child needs your absolute confidence. Second, learn ways to cope with your concern or anxiety.
If only it were that simple, right? In reality, it can be a challenge to manage your strong feelings about your child’s going away to overnight camp. But it’s not impossible. Let’s examine the two solutions.
1. Learn more about your camp.
We advocate learning about camps for many reasons. First and foremost, the more you learn, the better chance you’ll have of choosing the best camp for your child. We also advocate learning about camps because the process will decrease any apprehension you have—apprehension caused by Learning more about your child's summer camp can help ease your anxiety. not knowing the truth, or not having all the facts. If some aspect of camp remains unknown after you’ve inspected the camp’s materials and talked to other families, don’t hesitate to call the director. Lingering questions generate anxiety, so find out what you need to know, and then relax.
2. Talk to other camp parents.
It helps to talk with other camp parents. Knowing that you’re not alone in your concern or anxiety is comforting. Parents who have already sent their kids to overnight camp can tell you about their experience. They can help you think positively by telling you about the benefits of overnight camp. They may even have some new ideas for managing your “childsickness.” If you don’t personally know other parents whose kids have gone to overnight camp, then call the camp you chose. As we mentioned in Chapter 7, some camps have a referral list of parents who enjoy talking with other parents. This can be a source of social support and a powerful way to allay your fears. Believe us, most of the parents of the seven million kids who go to camp each year enjoy the time when their kids are at camp.
3. Prepare your child for cabin life
At some point, every child finds it challenging to get along with others. Most parents know how small disagreements (“He’s touching me!” “She’s on my side!” “That’s mine!” “He started it!”) can mushroom into a war between two kids. Now imagine eight or ten kids in a one-room cabin with no one’s parents around. Therein lie the many challenges of cabin life at overnight camp. It’s a significant lifestyle change from living in a home—even one with lots of siblings. Naturally, some parents have concerns about how well their child will adjust to living with a large peer group. Here’s how you might broach the topic with your future camper:
“Overnight camp is different from home. Here, you live with a few other people, but at camp, you might be living with ten in the same cabin. In our neighborhood, or in your class at school, you’ve got about a dozen kids to play with, but at camp, there might be a hundred or more! Plus, all of these kids will be different from you in some way. They’re going to look, dress, act, and speak differently than you. And some of them will like different games, sports, and music than you. If you want to make friends, you’ve got to respect them all. Of course, you don’t have to be everybody’s best friend. You don’t even have to like all the other kids. But you do have to try getting along with everyone.”
At this point, you might ask your son or daughter for suggestions about the best ways to respect and get along with others. Keep prompting for more suggestions, and then add your own ideas, until you’ve covered these key points:
- Treat others fairly. The Golden Rule is: Treat other people the way you want them to treat you.
- Cooperate. Work with your cabin mates, not against them. Lend a helping hand. Listen to your cabin leader.
- Be a good sport. Play fairly, follow the rules, and remember to congratulate the other team with a handshake or a camp cheer.
- Use good manners. All campers and staff appreciate pleases and thank yous. Make more room for your cabin mates by keeping your elbows off the dinner table.
- Do your share of the work. Participate in cabin clean-up, clearing the dinner table, and other cabin chores.
- Keep your stuff in order. Small cabins feel crowded when they’re messy. Check out Chapter 11 for great packing tips.
- Care for camp property. Treat equipment with care, so that others may enjoy it after you. Tell a cabin leader if something is broken. Conserve plants and other nature.
- Respect other kids’ privacy. Give your cabin mates some space, especially when they’re changing. Always knock before opening a door. Use safe touch.
- Ask before you borrow things. Most kids say “yes” to simple requests if you ask first. While you’re using someone else’s gear, treat it like your own.
- Use your words. Any disagreement can be solved by talking it out. Physical violence is never tolerated at camp.
- Talk with your cabin leader. Whether it’s good or bad, your cabin leader wants to know what’s up.
Tell your leader what’s going OK and what’s not. If there’s a big problem in the cabin, ask your cabin leader to arrange a cabin meeting so you and your cabin mates can work together to solve the problem.
4. Stay busy.
Make plans for the time your son or daughter will be at camp. Maybe you’ll just have some quiet time alone. Or, if you have younger children at home who are not going to camp, this will give you some precious individual time with them. Some families enjoy planning weekend vacations while their Stay busy while your child is at camp. children are at camp. (Just give the camp a -- where you or a family friend can be reached, if needed.) Other families have the time and money to take week-long vacations. When children are living at home, it’s rare for adults to have child-free time, so seize the opportunity if you can.
If you must continue your usual routine while your child is at camp, at least stay busy in little ways. See friends, go out to the movies, or tackle some project you’ve been putting off. If you stay busy, missing your child won’t bother you much. Of course you’ll think about him, and of course you’ll miss him. But overnight camp is an important growth experience for him. Think positively and stay busy.
5. Write often.
Renewing contact with your child feels good, so write to her often. She’ll love the renewed contact, too. For you, camp may seem close, but for kids, camp can seem as distant as the moon. It’s strange, different, and far, far away from home. Make it seem closer by staying in touch. Later on, we’ll give you some tips on writing positive letters and responding to signs of homesickness. Just remember: children are not good correspondents. Your child will deeply appreciate every letter you send, but she may not return more than one or two.
6. Take Care of Yourself.
Relax. Take a bath. Read. Walk. Sleep. Visit a friend. Your child is having a great time at camp. Why shouldn’t you enjoy your time at home? Some parents have told me that they feel guilty about having a good time while their child is away at camp. Don’t. He hasn’t gone away to fight a war or elope or sail around the world alone. (Not yet, anyway.) No, he’s not doing anything dangerous or sneaky. He’s at an overnight camp with plenty of supervision and fun activities to do. So take care of yourself. Enjoy the time apart. And, when camp is over, enjoy the time back together.