Here is my no-nonsense, cut-to-the-core take on how parents should view online photos from camp this summer! First, though, I want to frame the issue.
The subject of homesickness is quite mainstream – the so-called affliction is almost a rite of passage. We expect kids to miss home – if not their parents, then their pillow or their pet. But kidsickness is a whole different story! That “ailment” is rarely given its due, because it affects adults who are expected to be able to temper their emotions.
The reality is that kidsickness – parents pining for their children – is as much as an adjustment, if not more. In both cases, the “missing” is a steppingstone to independence. Think about it: in our society, parents and children are tethered by technology – cell phones, texts, e-mails, and tweets. (I’ve heard it called an electronic umbilical cord!)
That said, here is some simple advice for both kids and adults:
- Know that the feeling is normal
- Frame the separation in terms of time (they’ll be home soon!)
- Keep busy
Sounds easy enough, but here’s the rub: anxiety is often heightened with the posting of daily photos because it keeps the tether connected. While the intent is to give parents a one-way window into their children’s lives at camp, the upshot is that it often amplifies worry: “That’s not my child’s happy smile,” “Why is she wearing an ace bandage?” or “That’s the shirt he was wearing yesterday” are just a few of the typical red flags parents contemplate.
So allow me please to coach you on the fine art of viewing online camp photos. First and foremost, remember: if there were a problem at camp, you would hear about it! No news is good news. Next, think about all the photos you’ve seen of yourself over the years where the camera did not capture your most flattering countenance although you were having a great time!
And if your child does not cross the path of the photographer that day (or vice versa), keep in mind that she is probably too engaged or too busy to worry about finding the photographer (so please don’t bribe her before camp by offering a cash reward for each photo she appears in or pre-arrange hand signals with hidden messages!). And, know your own child – is she camera-shy while your friend’s daughter gravitates to the lens?)
Keep in mind the life lessons:
- Know that separation is natural and necessary. Each new experience increases a child’s confidence and ability to navigate on his/her own.
- You taught your child well; the lessons that you have instilled in him/her don’t disappear when you are apart.
- Camp is also a time for parents to have a break – from homework help, carpools, playdates… the year-round “spinning plates in the air.”
- Camp is also a time for kids to take a break from their parents! They won’t forget you!
If you need a visual, check out this cartoon by Terry and Patty LaBan. You might even want to tack it up on your bulletin board!