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Moms Talk: Field Trip Fears?

Discussing the anxiety sometimes associated with your child going on a field trip, especially one in which you cannot chaperone.

This week's discussion topic stems from a recent personal quandary. On Monday, my daughter went on her first full day field trip. The trip was to the Providence Children's Museum. 

I was not lucky enough to be one of the “Chaperone Lottery Winners,” nor was I able to "follow the bus" due to last minute obligations. I didn’t give my absence much thought and was primarily focused on ensuring her lunch was completely disposable.  Much to my surprise, I found myself a nervous wreck Monday morning! 

I ask that you bear in mind that my professional background includes operating school age programs, programs that offered numerous field trips each year.  In my capacity, I was required to attend many distressing presentations of the potential dangers of off-site excursions.  While, that is ancient history, I could not believe how quickly all the statistics and commentary came back to me! 

In all honesty, I must have checked my cell phone a dozen times before school let out, simply to ensure I hadn’t missed a call.  At pick up time, my daughter was glowing with excitement of her experience and in an instance, I felt silly for worrying. 

My worry was replaced by curiosity as I wondered…was I alone in my field trip fears?

One mom shared her recent experience…

I think that the parent, who thinks that by being a chaperone will calm their anxiety, is sadly mistaken! The anxiety multiplies when you are now responsible for other people's children as well.

I talked with the kids that morning about not going with strangers, even if they appear to work at the place. It is a hard talk to have with young children but I keep having it every time we go to a big public forum. 

I will NEVER be calm when my kids are out of my control. I'm not sure that I will be letting them go on field trips when I lose the ability to follow along. At least not until they are in high school....maybe not even then. I would hate for them to miss out on the opportunities to have fun with their classrooms just because I am a nervous Nelly/control freak!”

Another mom empathized…

I can only imagine how you felt.  My daughter went on one field trip to Ward’s Berry Farm.  Luckily, I was able to attend which worked out quite nicely.  In mid-June, she will be going to the zoo.  I have volunteered to chaperone, but spots are limited for this one.  Therefore, I am a bit nervous about what will happen if I can't chaperone. 

On the one hand, I have been to that zoo many times which does make me more comfortable.  If I cannot attend I will definitely be nervous, but I won't prevent her from going due to my worries.  I will be checking my cell phone numerous times throughout the day to make sure no one has called. 

I will also spend the day reminding myself that the teachers are professionals who have done this before. We trust our children to the teachers and school system for 180 days a year; I hope that even when the teachers are on a field trip our trust is well placed.  So, I'll hold on to that thought for the day, and pray all is well and that my daughter is having fun.

This mom and teacher explains each perspective…

I have to say that I, too, had a moment Monday where I visualized something going wrong on the field trip and I wasn't there to help my daughter.  I had this crazy thought that what if something terrible happened unexpectedly in this public place similar to what we hear far too often in the news these days such as a shooting or bus accident (I know, horrible thought!).

I quickly put my mind at ease by remembering that everything always turned out ok with my 3rd grader on his field trips.

I also want to add that I have been a parent chaperone as well as a teacher on a field trip, responsible for supervising all the children and chaperones. Parents, who chaperone usually, take the job very seriously and use extra cautions. As a teacher, I always reminded my chaperones to count, count, count! If I gave you a group of five children, you should be counting five heads repeatedly, ALL DAY LONG!”

We can't forget about the seasoned veteran teachers, who have been on a countless number of field trips, and probably have it organized to the T. I'm sure that a teacher on a field trip would always be prepared with a first-aid kit, emergency contact info and cell phone.”

This mom encourages other parents to have no fear…

Both of my kids have been on field trips for their schools and most of the time, I chaperone.  For the preschool trips, I carpooled the children but for liability reasons, public school children need to ride the bus.  I volunteered at the first trip, and I'm chaperoning Kayla's second trip in June.  I like to do this, because I get to meet Kayla's classmates, and I see how the teachers and students interact.

There was one field trip of Maya's that I was not able to come along on (I forget why), but I didn't worry.  She went to Blue Hills Trailside Museum.  My friend drove her, and she had my friend, the teachers and the museum staff looking after her.  I wouldn't worry too much.  There's not a lot of bad stuff that could happen to your kid that wouldn't happen anyway at school or on the playground.  (School buses are built like tanks and the staff at children's museums are expertly trained to find lost kids!)

I don't know much about conquering fears, since most of the time they're illogical.  Maybe a therapist?  If you think your fears will be alleviated if you can chaperone, then see if your hubby can take a personal day so you can.  However, this only buys time for you to come to the root of your fears.  Eventually, the child has to go off to college.”

I enjoyed and appreciate each of these responses.  Each week, I ask moms to add one more thing to their to-do list and every week members of the MOMS COUNCIL does just that!  Thank you for your continued contribution.

So what about the rest of my readers?

  • Have your kids gone on field trips?
  • Did you chaperone?
  • Were you a worry-wart like me?
  • If so, how do you calm you fears since it will be at least an annual event? 

I look forward to hearing from you in the comment section! 

Phil May 26, 2011 at 12:03 AM
These fears are not exclusive to Mom's!
Sarah May 26, 2011 at 12:24 AM
My son has gone on a few field trips (preschool). I have been on most of them. On a couple, I asked a friend who was chaperoning to take my son along with her. I felt very comfortable since I trust this friend completely and I knew that she was with my son the whole time. (In addition to the teachers, who I also trust, but I know they have their hands full and cannot keep their eyes on every single child every second.). My primary worry with my son being out of my sight is his allergies. He has an epi-pen due to a peanut allergy. Although we have never had to use it, I worry that he'll have a reaction when he is away from me. But, again, my friend had the epi-pen or knew where it was at all times, she knows his allergies, and all of his teachers are trained in how to use it properly. I'm sure I will be nervous the first time he goes on an elementary school field trip, since they tend to have fewer chaperones than preschool trips. But, I also agree with some of your moms that while being a chaperone may alleviate my fears about my own son, it would add other stressors. Being in charge of a group of kids in public is nerve-wracking! I used to be a teacher and I must say that I was a ball of nerves during every field trip I took. It's just so much responsibility and there is so much that is out of your control. I think I spent every second of every trip counting kids obsessively!!
lowertaxes May 26, 2011 at 12:43 AM
Ok, and this is why society is the way it is. Lighten up people and let your kids learn to be independent. Now adays there are way to many helicopter moms that have to control everything their kid does. How do we expect our kids to grow up be successful, well rounded adults if we don't let them spread their wings. I have two children in elementary school and the thought never crossed my mind that I should worry about them when they are on a field trip, nor have I ever thought I needed to be there holding their hand. If the teacher needed help, sure I would go, but otherwise I would let my kids go and have fun. My kindergartener as already been on his field trip and my only thought was that I couldn't wait to hear about it and ya know what, he came back in one piece, as did the rest of the class. Now more and more we are seeing "inhouse" field trips rather than taking the kids someplace special. It is unfair to the children and they are missing out on a great experience. There is a difference between protecting our children and smothering them.
Christine Iacobucci May 26, 2011 at 04:43 AM
I agree, I think we should call it Parents Talk instead... What are your reactions when your kids go on field trips?
Christine Iacobucci May 26, 2011 at 04:47 AM
As always, lower taxes I can appreciate your point of view. Though I never thought of myself as a helicopter parent and quite honestly swore I wouldn't be one. Perhaps our definitions vary a bit. As far as in house field trips, there is typically a fiscal benefit to those. Often grants pay for such activities. I know that the Children's Museum of Easton received a grant from the cultural council (I am the secretary) and they were doing a hands on science "in house field trip" at every elementary school.
Fiscal Conservative May 26, 2011 at 10:02 AM
Talk about over protective. I grew up w/lead paint in my house, I fell out of trees, oh my goodness, I drank water out of a garden hose, I got in fights (and lost some). My parents may have been shocked, but they didn't panic, they didn't blame anyone (it was part of growing up). I'm retired, was a very prductive member of society, unlike the Leisure Class that has been created. Parents today look for excuses when kids screw up. Its part of growing up. If you get over your fears, your kids will be less paranoid. Real world isn't what you want for your kids. They have to learn to be tough to succeed. Sorry, keep your kids home if you're afraid of field trips. Your kids fears stem from your fears.
lowertaxes May 26, 2011 at 12:27 PM
Christine, the inhouse field trip at my kids school was paid for by the PTA, and it is the only field trip they received. It lasted one hour and then it was back to work. It was the only field trip they received for the year and they were disappointed. Much more is expected of kids in school now than we we were young and they deserve a real field trip, a chance to leave the school one day a year and experience something new.
Christine Iacobucci May 26, 2011 at 01:21 PM
I, too, think it is extremely unfortunate that the only event your children had was in house. Truthfully, I don't even agree with calling these activities field trips, since they are not actually going anywhere, (unless, perhaps, the school considers the auditorium or whatever space they utilized, a destination). There was a great deal of grant money available to fund such trips as theater productions, museum visits and things of the like. I am unsure as to why the schools didn't apply for more. My daughter’s school didn’t apply for any! The PTA and PTO groups have so much on their plates as it is and both my kids’ schools it is the same small group who bares the brunt of it. They have to raise at least $20, 000 a school year and most don’t necessarily, think outside the box, about how to raise it. So again the burden falls on that same group of families. (But my feelings about fundraising would require an entire article). I can understand your kids' and your own disappointment! I know that when I was working outside the home full time, I appreciated the mini field trips that my daughter's toddler group took, because sadly, my schedule didn't afford me the opportunity to go bird watching or take many picnics with her. While attending the Pre-Playground program for the past 2 summers, she loved all the trips they took. I am not against field trips by any means, though it appears that is how some readers took it, I apologize for being unclear.
tina May 26, 2011 at 02:41 PM
It has occured to me, while reading the article and replies, there are many parents out there (myself included) who are quite fed up with the changes that have taken place within our schools and over all society. As one post mentions...we used to drink from garden hoses; now we have children with mini-hand sanitizers in their back packs. It may seem quite off topic-not allowing our children to drink from a hose verse parents worrying about their children when they are on school trips; when you look closer however, they are very much relevant to one another. Maybe parents feel guilty when they are not worrying about their kids 24/7? Call me crazy, or perhaps I am way too trusting of others- but when I drop my children off at school- I don't have a second thought about their safety. Do I understand the "What If's" of the world? Sure- My husband is a soldier who is currently deployed in Afghanistan-I know first hand the horrors that can occupy a parents mind. I'm not a stranger to worrying- and perhaps that is my reason for not having to worry about nonsense such as whether my children will be safe while in the hands of professionals-as well as chaperones.
tina May 26, 2011 at 03:05 PM
At school-our children are safe. The problem we face is our beloved media blowing up stories of horror about children bringing weapons to school, bus crashes etc... How do we rationalize something like that as it is happening? Most can't erase the images we see-helpless children facing sheer terror. What we should be thinking is out of thousands of schools-how often does this really happen? Looking at the whole picture...not too often. The possibilities are very low of having something go horribly wrong while your child is out of your parental protection. The chances are pretty much the same (IMO) whether my children are with or without me; the huge difference being...I'm not there.We can't focus on the "What If's" of daily life- If I did that I would never leave my house! I take comfort knowing my kids are safe at school. If the day arrives that my childrens' safety is compromised there will be hell and I would certainly be looking for answers-however, getting worked up and stressed over a situation that not only hasn't even happened yet, but is beyond my control, will do more harm then good. Worrying about germs when we have a pancreas to rid our bodies of unwanted toxins and an immune system that works hard to fight infections doesn't make sense. I went 32 years without hand sanitizer and went on many fields trips without being kidnapped. The world isn't that much different- what is different is our media coverage spreading unnecessary panic.
Christine Iacobucci May 26, 2011 at 04:06 PM
The media definitely sensationalizes and over reports the few negatives versus the many more positives in our world and is not limited to children. I may have mentioned this before, but the author of "Simplicity Parenting" provides a comparison between rates of child abductions in the 1950s & today-it is the same, in fact a tad bit less now. He, too, attributes this to media coverage. As I shared in my opening segment, my anxiety was not only short lived, it stemmed from trainings I attended. While I am sure that most of these trainings were provided with liability in mind, it is difficult to let go the details that were provided. After reading the comments, I think I should share that I am of the mindset that if a child is going to be abused/abducted, it will more than likely be by a family member or someone who they have frequent, close, unmonitored contact with. I think the occurrence of childhood sexual abuse is about, 1 in 4. Again, the majority of such experiences are not with random strangers. Like Tina mentioned, we as parents, cannot possibly control all of our kids' interactions/situations, & nor should we. Some may feel that if they teach them to stay away from strangers, etc. then their kids' safety is ensured. WRONG, things such as stranger danger have been proven ineffective. So even as a survivor of childhood abuse, those are not the things I worry about. Of course, I am cognizant of who they spend unmonitored time with, but that is all I can do.
lowertaxes May 26, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Bravo Tina on your wonderful prospective. I agree 100 percent. And bless your husband for his service to our country. He is a hero who is fighting to keep ALL our children safe. He will be in my prayers.

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