With spring in full bloom (OK, at least there is no snow), parents are busy preparing, planning, shopping and labeling in anticipation of sending their kids off to camp! While the process can be fun for kids, it can be overwhelming for parents who are experiencing this for the first time. It also is a constant reminder that the day is getting closer to put them on a bus or plane and let them experience life without you.
Most of the time, kids are busy being kids and don't give a lot of thought to their excitement, fears and worries leading up to this experience away from home... unless their parents give them something to worry about.
Did you know that a parent's anxiety levels about sending their child to camp are associated with higher levels of homesickness in the child? For example, have you found yourself saying any of the following (even if it is with a wink and a smile)?
- Child has messy hair. Parent says: "Who's going to brush it for you at camp?"
- Child is a picky eater. Parent says: "What are you going to find to eat at camp?"
- Child is slow to tie his shoes. Parent says: "How are you going to get out of the bunk on time at camp?"
- Child is a focused athlete at home. Parent says: "Are you are going to ask the director to get you more play time this summer?"
- Child has trouble picking out clothes. Parent says: "What are you going to look like every day at camp?"
- Child struggles falling to sleep at night. Parent says: "Who is going to tickle your back and tell you stories at night?"
You get the idea... we can all probably insert a million more of these parentisms that of course come from a good place, but those concerns are the reason you are sending your child to camp! Camp is the cure! For 7, 8, 9, 10 years, your children have relied on you to be their advocate, their housekeeper, their chef, their stylist and their cuddle pillow, their everything. Sending them to camp says, "I'm so proud of how grown up you are. You are ready to do some of these things for yourself, to feel great in your own hands and solid on your own feet. You are ready for this experience and we picked the perfect camp to help you develop into a healthy and independent person."
Maybe their hair will be a little messy in the photos you see online, but what you didn't see is how fast they tied their shoes and were the first down to lineup. Maybe they write a letter home saying they didn't like the chicken at camp, but what you didn't see is how they have a newfound love for the salad bar and spaghetti and meatballs! Maybe they didn't play extra baseball three times a week, but what you didn't see is that they are too busy mastering waterskiing on the lake.
And it's OK you are missing these milestones and growing moments, because they wouldn't happen if you were there!
So, as you approach the next several weeks leading up to camp, focus on the positive. Get your child involved in the camp shopping and labeling, empower them with fun stationery for communication, talk honestly about the possibility of homesickness, make sure they have a successful sleepover or two, practice saying good bye, and keep a smile on your face (don't let them see you cry!).
When parents put aside their own anxieties, they give children the confidence that camp is going to be an incredible learning experience for everyone!
Worried about the possibility of homesickness? If you haven't read Homesick and Happy by Michael Thompson, PHD, we strongly recommend it to all our camp families. We also have some more great ways to prepare your child for homesickness (and parents for childsickness). Click here to read about them on the Camp Towanda parenting blog.