How parents can cope with separation anxiety as kids head back to summer camp

Parents encouraged to enjoy newfound freedom, find good distraction.

How parents can cope with separation anxiety as kids head back to camp

Many of us have been looking forward to this time for so long -- summertime and with camps welcoming kids back, they’re finally getting out of the house.

However, instead of feeling peaceful, lots of parents are feeling empty and even anxious.

The McKenney family is getting into the swing of their new summer routine, which includes day camps for 7-year-old Blakley and her 5-year-old brother Rowan.

READ: How to help kids manage stress brought on by ‘return to normal’

“With one going to one end of the district and the other going to the other side, we are very busy,” said their mother, Cali McKenney.

McKenney is expecting another baby this summer. She signed the kids up for camps, looking forward to enjoying some down time.

“But I actually am missing their faces because they were virtual or hybrid all year, so now I miss having them around,” she said.

She never imagined she’d have those feeling after getting time away from her children. After being hunkered down together at home for more than a year, families are now adjusting to being apart.

“Parents are having separation anxiety because we’ve been with our children for the past year, and being away from them is hard for us,” said clinical psychologist, Dr. Donna Rockwell.

Psychologists and experts like Rockwell said it’s important for you not to transfer your own anxiety onto your children because they look to you for cues.

“We need to just be so careful and not project that on to them,” she said. “You normalize it, make it a positive thing. The negative is behind us. The positive is what’s in front of us.”

A common mistake made is saying ‘I’m going to miss you.’ Rockwell said that will make it worse.

“You’re going to say, ‘I’ll see you later. I’ll see you after school,’ so it’s normalized so there’s something to look forward to,” she said.

Rockwell encourages parents to enjoy their newfound freedom and find a good distraction.

“Do things that will normalize being back in the world slowly, and get your mind off of all the negative. We have to actually move our minds from what has been to what is now and what we want to create for the future,” she said.

Experts said this is a good time to remind yourself of the positives of being apart from your children, such as the chance for them to gain a sense of independence, which was disrupted a lot this past year.

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