Helicopter Parents Crash Summer Camp

 

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When my kids went to summer camp.

I’ve written about how helicopter parents are showing up in the workplace with their millennials here. Now, I’ve learned that parents are finding ways to hover over their kids’ summer camp experience, too.

In an NPR article called “Are Helicopter Parents Ruining Summer Camp?” by
Anya Kamanetz, I learned that helicopter parents often ignore summer camps “no cell phone” rules by hiding their kids’ phones when they pack for them.

“Barry Garst says thanks to mobile devices, parents today are conditioned to hour-by-hour check-ins. ‘The No. 1 concern is the separation that parents feel, and the difficulty in accepting a different type of communication with their child when their child is at camp.’ Garst studies youth development at Clemson University, with a focus on out-of-school learning.

Hence, the phones buried in luggage, mailed to campers, or even, he says, stitched into a stuffed animal.

The research on overparenting, says Garst, shows that when parents behave this way, children’s developing independence can be stunted. The parents are telegraphing that they don’t think kids can get through tough moments on their own, and kids pick up on that attitude. ‘Children are not really learning how to problem-solve.’

Leslie Conrad and Dan Mathews agree. (Conrad is the director of Clemson Outdoor Lab in Pendleton,  S.C., and Mathews is the head of Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, Ga.) Both say their young adult staff members have helicopter parents as well, who also expect to be in constant contact. Last year, Mathews says, he got four or five phone calls from parents of staff members: ‘I can’t reach my child, they haven’t texted yet to say that they’re safe, they don’t like their cabin assignment, another staff member isn’t pulling their weight …’ One parent complained about the poor cellphone reception in the Georgia woods.

Summer vacation is a time of growth and change. Understanding the relationship between tech overdependence and parent-child interdependence may be key to untangling it, so kids can fly free.”

I remember when my kids went away to their first camp. There was a “no cell phone rule,” too at swim camp at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. They didn’t own a cell phones then, so it was not an issue. I did want to check up on them, and the camp instructions said we could send them with a prepaid phone card that they could use at the pay phone outside the dorms. Unfortunately for me, my kids never used the cards. “I didn’t know how to use it,” one child said. The other told me, ”I didn’t want to stand outside in the dark where the pay phones are and I only had time to call at night.”

We all survived one week without talking on the phone. I don’t know if we would today. My kids call quite a bit and I do the same. We’re much more dependent upon cell phones now. I was actually finding myself getting annoyed with so many calls yesterday from my kids. My husband and I were trying to watch a movie and we got two calls from one child. Then as soon as we hung up and started the movie, the second child called. Those weren’t the only calls from them that day–I had lost track of the previous calls. I honestly don’t think my kids realize that I sometimes have things to do or can have fun without them.

Here’s a tip from a website called Common Sense that addresses kids and the media and technology:

“Dear Mom, Don’t Pack My Phone for Camp” By Regan McMahon
“Let’s be honest: sending kids to camp with a cell phone is probably more for you than them. Here’s how to cut your cord.

“When your kid’s summer camp tells you to just pack the essentials — swim suit, sunscreen, sleeping bag — a cell phone is usually not on the list. In fact, it’s generally on the “What Not to Bring” list. But for parents, staying in touch with our kids feels essential, and some find it’s not so easy to break the habit.

“If the kids can unplug, why can’t we? Since we can all admit the cell phone is more for us than for them (kids aren’t the only ones with camp jitters), here are some tried and tested tips from recovering camp moms. You will get through it.”

Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. We empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.

When your kids go to summer camp, how do you communicate with them? Or, do you let them experience camp without talking to you daily?

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My kids today.

 

 

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5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before The Kids Went to College

imgres-9This week I made the trek to the University of Utah to attend orientation with my daughter, who is an incoming freshman. Class of 2018 — does that sound scary or what?images-1

I spent two days in the pristine mountainside beauty of Salt Lake City with clear blue skies and intense sunshine. Parents attended most meetings without their kids, who were similarly engaged with topics angled for teenage consumption.summerFun_FrisbeeGolf_LBoye_067

Having been to college orientation three years prior with my firstborn, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. However, in “Supporting your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development, I wished I’d heard her advice before I sent my first child to college.

“I think she’s met my son — the one who’s going to be a senior in college,” I whispered to a mom next to me. (He’s also the son who tried to give away the cat on FB.)

She answered, “No, I’m sure she’s talking about my oldest daughter!”

What did Dr. Ellingson have to say that we wished we heard the first time around?imgres-10First…

Children go through changes. But, if it’s your first child going to college, or your last, you will be going through changes, too. We are in the process of changing our relationship from parent to child to adult to adult. We go through transitions, pushing them away and holding them close.

Second…images-2
A student who works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus, or doesn’t work at all. Students working on campus are making connections with the campus, student, and staff. They are completing their identity as a student first.

Students born from 1980 to 2000 are known as millennials. They don’t like to suffer —  they love nice things — and they don’t mind working for them. Unfortunately, this can interfere with their education. So, if they want spending money, suggest a job on campus.

Third…images-3
Cell phones according to Dr. Ellingson, are “the world’s longest umbilical cords.” Some students call home 5, 6, 7 times a day. In our day, we waited in line for the phone down the hall on Sundays — when long distance was cheaper — and horror of all horrors — there wasn’t such a thing as a cell phone!

Don’t let your child’s crisis become your crisis. Let them problem solve. Ellingson’s example was a daughter who called her mom and said, “I flunked my midterm. The professor hates me…” After consoling her crying daughter, the mother called back later with more advice. The daughter was like, “Huh? What are you talking about? Everything’s fine.”

images-5Fourth …
They are learning to become themselves. Making new friends. They will be grieving and letting go of high school friendships, but will build new and deeper ones. A main developmental issue is finding their identity. Their core stays the same, which has been developing over the past 18 years. But, how they express themselves changes.

They may try on new identities by copying new friends to see how it fits or feels. You may say to yourself, and hopefully not to your child, “Who the hell is this?” Then you meet their new friend, and say to yourself, “Oh, now I see who this is!”

Intellectually they are still developing. They see things differently than before. They love to debate. They will try out their debating skills, or how to express themselves by choosing opinions contrary to yours, even if it isn’t what they truly believe.

And Fifth…imgres-2
Dr. Ellingson talked about independence: “Their first steps as a toddler are towards you. Every step after that is running away from you.”

They need to discover how to be on their own — and this is one of their fears. Delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28. They will say to you “Leave me alone!” Then, “bail me out!” This is normal. The pendulum will swing back and forth.

Just remember to love them, guide them, but let them figure it out. The more we solve their problems, the more we delay their growth into independent, responsible adults.

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And one more thing…”GO, UTES!!!”


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