Carey Luckey
July 10, 2020

How do you cope when anxiety takes over your child?

For a lot of parents and kids, the arrival of summer camp is more than welcomed (Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out, sweetie!) – especially now, given all the time kids had at home because of the pandemic.

[Image Description: A white adolescent boy crouched over his knees in distress. His head is hanging over his knees as he pulls his brunette hair with both his hands. He's wearing a white tee shirt with blue shorts and black sandals. He's positioned …

“Yahoooooo for summer camp!”… Said Everyone But My Son…

For a lot of parents and kids, the arrival of summer camp is more than welcomed (Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out, sweetie!) – especially now, given all the time kids had at home because of the pandemic. While some kids are talking with their parents about their excitement to get to day camp, who and what they’re looking forward to, I am fielding anxieties and meltdowns from my son as the 2-week countdown to camp begins – and that’s just the start. He goes from 0-60 with his emotions about most things, big and small, and stopping the “runaway train,” as we call it, is a regular challenge. His face gets red, he tears up, gets sweaty, and away we go…

How many days until camp starts? Who will be in my group? How many kids will be there? What if I don’t find my group? How will I know who my counselor is? What if I’m late for drop off? What if nobody wants to play with me? What if you forget to pick me up?… I bet I won’t make any friends. I’m going to be so sweaty with a mask on! I’m not good at games. I hate camp! This is the worst summer ever! Why do I have to go?! I don’t even get to have a summer vacation!! …And my favorite, “My life sucks.” (Ugh.)

Oh, my sweet boy. He’s so overwhelmed and in his own way, that he doesn’t even think that summer camp, which for him happens to be at a beautiful outdoor YMCA on the ocean (swimming in the pools, games, snacks, singing and dancing, to name a few things that he DOES love), resembles a vacation. Maybe it sounds like I should consider not sending him, but if you could see his face after he tackles a fear, or see how he lights up when he nails a dance move in his camp group, or actually tells me he had a good day at camp, you’d get that THOSE are the reasons I send him. Also, I think it’s my job to urge him to face things he doesn’t like, right??  (*brow sweats*).

I spend a lot of time putting out potential anxiety fires by making sure he has the right cooler for his lunch, the right water bottle, sunscreen that he will wear, the deet-free bug repellent (because of course mosquitoes LOVE him and he often gets horribly infected bug bites that require medicine – tough break, kid!), tag free clothing, the right shoes…shall I go on?  Oh man, and he has to wear a mask at his outdoor camp! Did I miss something? Probably. Oh yes, the nightly tears before bed dreading camp (Worry Dolls help), the nerves on the way to camp in the morning, and the release of it all upon pick up. He’s held it together all day – and had some fun it seems, but all while being on high-alert. It exhausts him. He comes home to his special blanket, Bow, and decompresses for a while and we have a few good hours, then it’s bedtime and the tears and questions kick in again…it’s all on repeat Sunday night through Thursday morning. I want so much for him to have a week that he feels scot-free.

I don’t mean to sound overly annoyed by all this. I was going to write that “I’m not complaining,” but I think I actually AM! Right. It’s ok to vent personal worries and frustrations! I’ve read that if you find yourself complaining about parenting, it means that you are actually trying to accomplish something with your child. So, Yay for Us! We all have complaints; some of us hold them in more than others. I know that getting it out in bits or in a giant avalanche is actually healthy (writing this helped me!). Find someone who can take it. Maybe not the person at the take out counter, but a person who you know will just let you vent. And know that I am virtually commiserating with you!

I know my situation is not unique, which is why I’m babbling on in hopes that some parents can relate. I have no advice to give or words to the wise…I just find it’s always such a relief to hear someone else has similar experiences (you do, right?). I suppose his anxiety also triggers MY anxiety. So maybe I need to relax a tad, and let the chips fall where they may, but that is HARD when it’s your son’s pride, comfort, and joy on the line. I guess it’s all part of the heartbreakingly beautiful experience of being a parent!

Thanks for reading – I’m going to go hide in my room with my coffee and laptop and eat ice cream while I obsessively look for the right pair of waterproof summer shoes.

If you need professional support for your anxiety, many providers are now offering telehealth so you can get support without leaving the house. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect to a crisis counselor at Crisis Text Line.

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