Anxious About Overnight Camp? Moms, Here’s How to Deal

Anxious About Overnight Camp? Moms, Here’s How to Deal

Don’t stress about your child’s first overnight camp stay. We’re here to help.

By Maria Mora

A few weeks ago, I got an exciting acceptance letter. After being on a waiting list, my son was accepted to a weeklong overnight camp just for kids with epilepsy. Once the initial thrill passed, anxiety hit me like a splash of ice cold water. Overnight camp? How was I supposed to deal with sending my firstborn, my baby, into the care of strangers for an entire week?

Dr. Chester Goad, a parenting expert and former co-director of a camp for kids with special needs, says my fears aren’t unusual. Parents often experience as many fears about staying away from home as kids do. Here, his three-step approach for conquering overnight camp worries.

Before camp starts
Keep yourself busy and organized. It’ll give you a sense of control. Instead of giving your child a packing checklist and calling it a day, help with the entire process. “If parents and kids pack together, they'll find that going to greater lengths on the front end to make sure everything is packed will lessen Mom's anxiety as well,” says Goad. I’ve also found it very comforting to read through the extensive materials the camp sent over.

During overnight camp
It’s all right to think about your child during camp. “Keep a schedule handy so when you begin to feel anxious you can look at your child's schedule and have a better idea what they're up to,” suggests Goad. “Imagine them with smiles on their faces, laughing, and enjoying their own time.” Keep a few copies around so you can reassure yourself whenever you think about missing your child. Don’t feel guilty about enjoying the time your child is away. “Reassure yourself that you need this time just as much as your child does,” adds Goad.

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If your anxieties start to get the better of you, focus on planning something special to celebrate your child’s return. “Special doesn't have to be fancy, it can be as simple as providing freshly changed bed linens, or making a special meal so you can hear all about their adventures,” says Goad. I plan on giving my son a journal to write about his camp experiences.


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After camp
It’ll go by much more quickly than you think. Once camp is over, make some time to sit down one on one with your child so you can hear all about it. “Asking questions this year and engaging will make you more comfortable for next year's big adventure,” notes Goad. Once you get through that first overnight camp, you’ll be a pro – and your little one will too.

What helps you cope with your anxiety about your kids going to camp?

Maria Mora is communications director at Big Sea Design and Development in St. Petersburg, Florida. She lives with her two sons and their rescue terriers.

Image © Debenport

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