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Letting Go of Your Kids this Summer
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, July 2005

Your children probably have plans this summer which may involve being away from home for an extended period of time. Depending on their age, they're either visiting relatives away from home, backpacking on their own or going off to sleep-away camp. Essentially, they'll be on their own in some capacity.

While they're having fun away from the nest, it's normal for parents to worry about their safety but still want to give them the freedom to explore. Do your best to let your children know you have confidence in them and their choices.

Here are some Sanity Savers to help you put your mind at ease as you let go of your child so he or she can enjoy summer fun:

Role Play - Kids might not know what to expect. You can help them combat loneliness, react appropriately in emergencies, learn to make new friends and deal with different personalities if you prepare them before they set out on their journeys.
Anticipate Homesick Feelings - Pack familiar pictures and keepsakes and an address book so your child can call and write friends and loved ones. A journal to combat lonely times is a good friend.
Discuss Ways to Relax - They may encounter peer pressure, competitiveness and anxiety from unfamiliar people and settings and will need to unwind. Breathing exercises, stretching, visualization, journaling and writing letters home can all help.
Visualize Safety - Surround yourself in your own mind's eye with a picture that your children are protected and safe. Unneccessary worry is stressful and unhelpful.
Communicate Often - If you can, make contact by phone at regularly scheduled times so your child knows when he or she will talk to you and feels connected. Pack pre- stamped, pre-addressed post cards and envelopes. Also, check in with adults who are supervising your children to get another view of how they are doing.
Have an Emergency Plan - Especially for international travel, know your child's itinerary and make sure he or she has the phone number and location of the nearest US Embassy. If travel plans change, your child should contact you immediately with the new schedule. An international cell phone or service is a good idea as well as prepaid credit cards and calling cards.

Plan on ways you can ease your worry. Write in your own journal on what you're feeling and how you can plan your summer and avoid being stressed out from thinking about your kids. Take time for yourself and your other relationships. Use your time wisely.

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