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Tips on Easing Summer Camp Anxiety

Birmingham Maple Clinic Director and Licensed Social Worker, Lori Edelson appeared on WXYZ 20 News and WDIV Detroit to discuss Camp Anxiety. Lori gave tips on how both children and parents can reduce stress to sail kids off to camp smoothly.

Important points punctuated by Lori:

1) Manage Expectations

  • Help kids get familiar with camp by visiting in advance, showing pictures of cabins and activities, what the daily routine might look like, what campers do there.

2) Prepare yourself and child for homesickness

  • Lori Edelson said “It is important to note that home sickness is not a psychiatric disturbance.”
  • She advises parents to help their children to understand that homesickness is a normal experience and almost every other child at the camp will have these feelings at some point or another during the trip.
  • Do not be ashamed of homesickness. Lori reminds parents to coach your child on writing letters home, and talking to a friend or adult about how you are feeling.

3) Parents manage your own anxiety

  • Lori advises parents to consider if they are too anxious about sending the child and the child is anxious too it may be worthwhile to consider as a family waiting until everyone is more ready.
  • Parent’s anxiety can be transferred to the child which can foster feelings of shame or failure.
  • Avoid saying “If it doesn’t go well we can pick you up.” This communicates that even the parent thinks this won’t work out.
  • Parents should be very confident that the choice to go to camp is for reasons the parent feels are very positive, very healthy, and going to be the best for the child.

So what do you do if camp is already booked and you are realizing that you or your child is too anxious and waiting until next year is not an option?

  1. Brainstorm all of the fears about camp that are troubling to you or your child
  2. Rank order the fears from least scary to most scary
  3. Create a plan to become comfortable with each item on the list starting with the lowest on the fear scale.
    1. Come up with sayings or reminders that build confidence and reduce irrational fear.
    2. Consider calling the camp and find out what they do in certain scenarios.
    3. Do dress rehearsals of what the child could do or should do if presented with the troubling issue
    4. Practice coping techniques like breathing, meditation, counting or taking a walk.
    5. Create some “experiments” that might replicate the fear in a smaller safer way like going to a cottage with cousins without mom or dad for 1-2 nights to prepare for what it might be like a week away or visit the camp for a day without staying over but have parents leave for 5-6 hours so the child can get a “taste” of what its like to be alone.

To see the interviews in their entirety, click here and here.

If your child has intense anxiety, fears about social interactions with peers, difficulty separating from you, extreme homesickness, irrational fears or phobias that you view is greater than what is normal for a typical kid it could be your child has an anxiety disorder. Psychological evaluation, individual therapy, and psychiatric treatment may be helpful in the reduction of anxiety disorders in children. If as a parent your anxiety about your children seems excessive and you have irrational fears or guilt it could be that an anxiety disorder is impacting your life. Individual therapy can help to develop skills to improve coping, reduce worry and build confidence in either you or your child. To schedule an appointment at Birmingham Maple Clinic with a specialist in anxiety issues call (248) 646-6659 or visit www.birminghammaple.com.