That is a huge step, and a move in the direction toward greater independence for your camper. But this can also feel scary as a parent. Will they be ok? Will they still need me when they come home? Will they be different? Will I be ok while they are gone?
The answer to all of these questions is – YES!
Summer camp breeds independence and positive personal growth – which is a great outcome for the camper from the summer camp experience. But what about you? The adult, parent, guardian? Will you be ok? How can you prepare yourself for some time away from your camper?
If you have not spent much time away from your camper in the past, this could feel different. Starting to prepare ahead of time – even this early – is the best way to feel your best mentally and emotionally when the time arrives. Here are a few tips I have:
Let yourself feel the emotions! Scared, sad, worried, anxious – all the feelings are valid. Pushing them down or pretending they don’t exist won’t help anyone in this situation. Allow yourself to “feel all the feels.”
Talk to a friend or your partner about your feelings, or journal about them. An important step in allowing yourself to feel those feelings is to also process them, either verbally or in writing. Maybe grab lunch or a coffee with a best friend (or set up a FaceTime if they are far away!), or plan a date night with your partner with the purpose of talking through these things. If talking isn’t your thing, grab a journal or even type on a computer if that feels better.
On that same note, try not to burden your camper with these feelings. It can be helpful to share feelings when they bring them up. For example, if your camper says they are worried about missing you, you can validate that feeling and say “It’s ok to feel worried about that, and guess what? I’m worried about missing you, too!” But if you share too much of your anxiety or worries with your camper it could backfire and cause them to feel worse, or even feel guilty that you are feeling worried. Again, pretending like your feelings don’t exist isn’t healthy, but find that balance in sharing feelings as a way to validate their own.
Make some plans! Do you have other children at home? Look at the calendar now and start putting special events on it for you and your other children. Maybe even special one-on-one time with each of your other children. Having special things to look forward to will keep you feeling positive and excited while your camper is away. No kids at home during this time? Plan some date nights with your partner, or get-togethers with best friends. Many parents use the camp time to take a trip together, or plan a girls’ getaway. Or maybe you want some solo time as some much-needed self-care (spa day anyone?). Take advantage of not having to get a babysitter for a week or three. And get those things on the calendar now so you can have several things to look forward to!
Prepare to stay in touch with your camper – but don’t overdo it! Yes, there is such thing as too much communication from home. Some parents write letters ahead of time and bring them on opening day labeled with what days to deliver them on. Others prefer writing them in real time. Just be ready to write (get that stationary and stamps) and focus on positive, encouraging news. And remember – too much mail from home can impede your camper’s experience, so stick to just a couple of times a week ☺.
Mentally prepare to NOT hear from your camper as much as you want to. Remember that this is a good thing – they are busy! In fact, they are having a ball! Your camper will be out running around with their new friends, or resting during Rest Hour after a very active morning. As a parent who has purposely sent my kids to another sleepaway camp, I can relate to the desperate longing for letters from them, and the disappointing feelings daily when the mail arrives and yet again, nothing. Prepare yourself now! Not all campers love, or choose, to write letters home, despite our encouragement at camp. But trust me, they will have plenty of things to tell you all about when you see them on Closing Day.
And finally – breathe! Remember, you’re giving your camper a huge gift. They will gain SO much from this experience, and as hard as it can be to separate from them for a little bit, they will still need you, and they will still be your wonderful child when they return – just a little more independent, with a few more skills under their belt, and a lot more friends to keep in touch with during the year. You’ve got this!
I hope this helps you get prepared to send your child away for a short time, but as always you’re welcome to contact me to talk through any concerns or ask any questions. I’d love to hear from you!