As parents, we often worry about our children’s separation anxiety when they are away, but it’s also natural for parents to experience anxiety when your kids are at summer camp or their first sleepover.
Here’s some tips to help you deal with anxiety about everything from what your kids are eating and what they’re watching on TV to larger safety concerns.
Accept That Worrying Is a Normal Part of Parenting
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), it’s completely normal to worry about your child’s physical and emotional well-being when they’re not with you. Try to keep in mind that new experiences and milestones, such as the first day of school or going to camp, help your child grow and learn to handle new situations.
Planning Can Help Reduce Your Anxiety
The APA suggests this helpful planning exercise for reducing your worries: Create a list of all the things you’re worried will happen, and rank them from most likely to least likely. For each of the most likely possibilities, make a plan. This way you’ll have a plan of action if, for example, your child is hurt or is not feeling well while away from home.
Preparing Can Help Reduce Your Worries
From your list of worrying situations, make sure your child is properly prepared to cope with the ones within his or her control. For example, if you’re afraid your child will get lost at camp, coach them on how to ask a counselor for help, and if you can, visit the camp with them before drop-off day to get the lay of the land.
If you’re worried your child will be frightened during thunderstorms or feel homesick, prepare them with a way to calm themselves down and remind them that it’s okay to ask for help. Also, make sure your kids also know their parents’ full names, phone numbers and home address(es) by heart.
Doing a little preparation will help you feel more confident that they’ll know what to do if a challenge arises.
Focus on the Positive
Your child may pick up on your anxiety and start to worry too. Worry stems from uncertainty, so anything you can do to remove uncertainties will reduce anxiety for both you and your child. For example, when talking to your child about a new experience, focus on all the positive aspects you are certain of instead of the negative aspects.
Discuss Family Values and Rules
Are you also worried about what your child is doing or will be exposed to when you’re not around? As kids grow, they have to learn to navigate these murky waters themselves. That’s when it’s helpful for them to know your family’s values and rules about strangers, bedtime, curfews and TV shows.
This also works when your child is at a friend’s house. Make sure you and your child know the other family’s values and rules as well.
Take a Deep Breath
Mindfulness, or the practice of noticing what is going on around you and inside you during the current moment, is a proven way to reduce anxiety. The simplest way to practice mindfulness when you notice you’re worried is to turn your mind to your breathing.
Stop, close your eyes, and focus on your breath as it slowly goes in and out of your body. This can help redirect your mind away from worrying. If you can make it a daily 5- to 10-minute habit, you will find your anxiety response decreasing over time.
Another great tip is to repeat something calming and empowering to yourself to help reduce your worries such as, “My child is smart and knows exactly what to do.”
Remember, it’s normal to feel anxious about your child when they’re not with you. The next time you’re feeling worried, try one of these separation anxiety tips to regain your peace of mind.
Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.