The thought of sleep-away camp may stir up anxiety and ambivalence for you and your kids. As in any new situation there are unknowns, and it’s easy to let them get the best of you. Yet camp can be a great opportunity for kids to develop their strengths,interests and independence.
And believe it or not, sleep-away camp can also be the best thing for you and your marriage. As a member of the Sandwich Generation your life is full, caring for parents growing older and kids growing up. When was the last time you luxuriated in time alone with your partner? Here are four tips that may help you ease into the comfort and excitement of a totally adult relationship:
1. Invest in each other. In a family with active children and demanding careers, it’s the marriage that usually ends up on the back burner. Make efforts to develop your relationship, just as you would any valuable asset. Feel more treasured as the emotional dividends grow.
2. Give the gift of time. Focus on each other by planning activities you’ll both enjoy. Exercise together – rent a bicycle built for two or take a hike in the mountains. Be spontaneous and mysterious – surprise each other and be free with your affection. Sneak away from work and do the extraordinary – meet at a museum or enjoy a picnic in the park.
3. Act like kids and laugh a lot. In your daily routine when the kids are home you inevitably get bogged down with meals, laundry, bills. That can be stressful and boring. It’s emotionally healthy to let off steam. Now you can be more fun and playful. It will force you to remember who you are at your core and remind your partner of why you fell in love.
4. Create romance and intimacy. More of this has likely been on your ‘to do’ list for a long time, so here’s your chance to make it happen. No need now to pencil it in or make love on the run. Cook dinner together, turn on the music, light candles and share that bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion.
With your kids away and more time for yourself, you may develop a new perspective. When you’re not worried about their daily activities or self esteem, you realize that your protective instincts keep you on edge. And this newfound freedom can help you reevaluate your role as mother.
After all, camp is a maturing experience. When the kids return home, perhaps you’ll be ready to start back on a different footing – expect them to be more responsible and do their chores without being told. With these four tips in mind, commit to nurturing yourself as well as your kids:
1. Be flexible in resolving your family issues. Negative feelings are difficult to face head-on, but the rewards can be more honesty and a renewed sense of trust. Resist holding on to resentment. Bring humor into your disagreements as you laugh together.
2. Give compliments freely. Sometimes it seems easier to criticize than to praise and acknowledge positive behavior. Adjust your antennae to be more attentive to the actions you want to reinforce. When you are thinking something positive, say it out loud.
3. Work to create balance. If you are devoted to your children and to your marriage, your behavior will reflect this deep commitment. Your dedication to their needs can then give you the confidence to pursue your personal goals.
4. Go for it. Once you have decided what you want for yourself, let your priorities determine what is realistic. Know that, all the while, your kids will be practicing their own self care and independence.
Time flies – summer is almost over and the new school year is right around the corner. But don’t forget that sleep-away camp can be life changing for your children and for you. They will gain confidence while making new friends and developing lifelong skills – and so can you. Embrace that thought when you’re making a decision about sleep-away camp next spring.
© Her Mentor Center, 2010