By Steve Robertson
Your kids have gone to camp. Now comes the hard part: Parenting them while they aren't living at your house! While they are away, we know there are myriad thoughts going through your head. Are they having fun? Are they making friends? Are they eating enough nutritious food? Are they learning something new? Did they shower today? All of these thoughts are perfectly natural, but it's how we act on them that is the important part. Kids go to camps or summer programs for many reasons -- to learn, to meet new friends, to navigate life "on their own." Giving them the proper space to do that is a very hard thing to do, but it is the key to a successful experience.
Here is a list of recommended "Dos and Don'ts" of summer camp parenting:
Do give your child pictures of home to hang on their walls. Home is important and it is important for them to have reminders of their amazing family back home.
Don't call, text and email every day. It is important that they focus on being fully present at their program. Too much contact with home can take away from that.
Do discuss real, actionable goals for the summer with your kids. It helps them focus on each day while they are gone.
Don't be too critical of them if they fall a little short on those goals. Part of summer is meant to explore new things and have some fun.
Do allow your kids to experience the general ups and downs of their experience. There can be some homesickness, especially if this is their first time away from home. This is a growing experience that you should allow to happen.
Don't tell them that you will come pick them up if they are unhappy. Knowing this is an option can prevent children from overcoming very important challenges they will certainly encounter while they are away.
Do give them spending money. There are definitely times when they will need it.
Don't give them a limitless budget.
Do wonder how your kids are doing. It is a natural thing for a parent to do.
Don't worry. Know that if you have made it all the way through the process and actually sent your kids away for the summer, you have made that decision because you trust the program you have chosen.
Do follow your child's program on social media. Following a program on social media can provide insight into how much fun your child is having.
Don't read too deeply into the pictures you see. Summer programs try to catch the highlights throughout the summer. When you see a picture of your child and they aren't smiling, don't assume the worst. Have you ever tried to keep a smile on your face for 24 hours? It is not natural! Keep in mind that a photo is a snapshot of one moment in a very long camp day.
Do empower your child to self-advocate. If they need something, be it a pillow or toothpaste, encourage them to ask their residential counselor, instructor, or director on their own.
Don't call the director for your kids. There is probably little you can do from wherever you are.
Do enjoy yourself while your kids are away. Take a break, do something you love but don't usually have the time to do.
Steve Robertson is CEO of Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs, which has been helping families from more than 40 states and 40 countries create amazing summer experiences via sports, academic, art, pre-college, cooking, and business summer programs for 39 years.