May 9, 2011
Overnight camps a good respite for divorcing families?
For divorced or divorcing parents, summer vacation can really drive up the stress meter. The daily routine is altered for 12 long, summer weeks, and many parents feel overwhelmed by their own emotions and changes in life style. Sleep-a-way or overnight camps can be a good solution for both parents and kids. It can be a much needed respite from the turmoil stemming from the family going through a divorce. Kids can have time away to focus on their own activities and interests and enjoy learning new things in a safe environment. Parents can have a break and take necessary time to refocus their energies on their changing life situation.
There are however, certain considerations to keep in mind as well as best practices in making the decision to send your child to overnight camp:
#1 Ascertain how your child is responding to the divorce and communicate to him/her that overnight camp is an opportunity to have some fun and try new things; and not an excuse to send them away. Children of divorced or divorcing parents experience many psychological effects ranging from rage and anger to despair and dejection, made more acute when there is a contentious custody battle. Children may suffer an assortment of psychological problems such as: denial, anger, rage, panic- disorders, low self-esteem, guilt, and illegal behavior.
#2 Both the custodial and non-custodial parent needs to reach an agreement on the type of camp selected, individual financial commitment and how best to be emotionally support their child during this time. Offering a unified approach to this decision is in the best interests of the child and responsible parenting.
#3 Your child’s age may have an important affect and needs to be assessed prior to the camp decision or selecting a camp. It is common for younger children (under the age of 5) to become very introverted, angry and easily frustrated. Children in middle school and high school have different reactions to the psychological pain caused by their parents’ divorce. Many fantasize about their parents reuniting and possibly getting remarried. They may also withdraw from extracurricular activities, friends and family. This anti-social conduct is a common emotional effect of divorce on children. Other common behaviors can include: fighting, bullying, lying, stealing, and running away. Speak to camp supervisors and explain what is happening on the home front. Many are quite familiar with the responses of divorce on children and are there to help.
#4 Engage your child in the decision on attending an overnight camp. By including them in discussions, many concerns such as homesickness and feelings of abandonment can be overcome. Your child’s interests and capabilities are keenly instrumental in a good “away from home” experience.
As parents, you and your ex-spouse are the best decision makers of whether your child is ready for the overnight camper experience. There are many camps that offer fun, adventurous, even educational opportunities for kids of all ages. Overnight camps offer new horizons for your child to experience and a little recovery time for you.
Have you had experience with overnight camps and your child? We’d love to hear about them.