Summer Camp And Separation Anxiety

Posted by on Jun 14, 2015 in Anxiety, Couples & Family | 0 comments

Summer Camp And Separation Anxiety

(As Seen In Anton Publications June 10 – 16, 2015)

The summer is throttling towards us and the sleep-away promises of lake, sports, bunk raids, canteen and color war has the hearts of a few fortunate kids revving faster than the coach buses that will carry them there. Loving parents will miss their children, but might concede that they’ll enjoy the summer exchange of sibling bickering and carpools for a few soirees and a healthy dose of down-time. For some families its just that simple; a restorative summer holiday. For others camp may sound appealing but the reduced access to their loved ones causes a disproportionate level of apprehensiveness and uncertainty.

Separation Anxiety 02The seven weeks of summer camp are likely to be the longest stretch a parent and child have been apart, which alone might be troubling. If they inquire, the family might hear that a successful summer experience may only be achieved if the contact between them is minimized. That’s a lot. Think about it: on top of all of the child’s concerns about going out on his own and fitting in, he is told that the camp supports barriers on communication with his greatest source of comfort and reassurance. What if she doesn’t like her bunkmates? What if the counselors are mean? What if he is unhappy? He will feel alone and there will be no familiar faces to comfort him.

In some cases, it’s not the child who is apprehensive. A worried parent might have her own concerns. She might be distressed by the lack of control and the idea of not knowing if her child is sleeping, eating or having a good time. The experience might be a great way for his child to develop self-reliance in a nurturing, safe, and supportive environment but he might experience anxiety about letting her go to camp and navigating without him. A family who has any of these concerns may want to know what they can do to increase the chances for a successful and enjoyable summer for everyone.

Separation Anxiety 03Before signing up for any camp or away-from-home activity, a parent should speak with their child about it. Ask him how he’s feeling and what his concerns are. Be sure to acknowledge his feelings as legitimate. Even if you don’t believe there’s any real reason for her to be upset, remember that her feelings and fears are very real in her mind. Show empathy, understanding and listen to her. Sometimes the child just wants to know that she has been heard and, whether that’s the case or not, it is always a good idea to let her feel that she has some say in the decision making. Instead of simply sending your child to the camp of your choice, request several camp’s videos and make an evening out of watching them together. Ask your child what he liked about each camp and help him to choose the camp he feels he would enjoy most.   He is more likely to have good, successful summer if he chooses the camp he goes to.

A parent should not compound his child’s worries by expressing his own apprehensions about camp. He should address these concerns on his own. Children look to their parents first when attempting to gauge how afraid they should be about something, so it is very possible for the parent to inadvertently increase the child’s anxieties. If she senses that her parents aren’t worried about camp, she may feel safer and more confident. Remind her of how much fun she’ll have and what she’ll learn. Focus on the camp’s positive aspects.

As for anxious parents, ask questions of and get to know the camp director. Ask about the camp’s philosophy and how the staff implements it. Make sure the philosophy reflects your families’ value system. Try to remember that camp directors have your child’s best interests in mind coupled, with the experience and skill to guide your child towards an appropriate level of independence, self-confidence and success. Lastly, remember that kids often get over the adjustment to a new environment before parents get used to this next stage of their development.

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