You’ve met the Camp Director, selected the best possible camp, it has the right staff, the right training, the right accreditation, and comes recommended highly by everyone. And then, something goes terribly wrong at camp. There was one thing you forgot to check off your to-do list and that is to EMPOWER YOUR CHILD!
So before you send your precious gold off to sleep away camp, there are a few things you need to discuss. Granted, age appropriate discussions will be to your discretion, but below are the 7 critical topics to discuss.
1. You’re the Boss of Your Body! No one is allowed to touch you in any way that makes you feel yucky, weird, or uncomfortable. And no one should try to play any kind of “touching games” with Private Parts… not an adult, a counselor or another camp kid.
2. It’s OK to say “Stop Touching Me” or “HANDS OFF MY BODY” to anyone at camp… including another camper, a bigger kid or even a grownup or counselor. You actually have to teach kids HOW to say this ahead of time and tell them they have permission to tell anyone to “stop touching.” Practice this before they go off to camp.
3. Stay with your group all the time, especially on field trips and outings. Even if you’re bored or restless, it’s not okay to wander off alone.
4. Tell your counselor right away if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or you’re having any kind of problem. DON’T WAIT. Be honest with your counselor and let them know if you need them to help you with anything. No one should make you feel guilty, or “yucky”.
5. Tell another safe grownup at camp if your counselor doesn’t help you or is part of what is making you feel uncomfortable. (Parents: be sure your child knows several different counselors or adults at camp ahead of time.)
6. Set up a code word or phrase in case your camper wants to call you for help or to come and get them in an emergency. Often, a kid may not want everyone to hear that they are calling home or even WHY they are calling their parents. A code word between the parents and child is a great way to set up a “safety system” and it really helps your child feel like “my parents have my back!”
7. Tell your child clearly: YOU are my #1 priority… and I will always stand by you and believe you if you are scared or sad about any experience. You can tell me anything & I’ll support you.
PARENTS: WE HAVE TO LET OUR KIDS KNOW AHEAD OF TIME THAT WE HAVE THEIR BACKS, NO MATTER WHAT.
Remember: practice makes perfect. Go over a few safety rules and scenarios before they leave for camp. Keep the dialog light but clear. If it’s their first time at sleepaway camp, let your child know it’s normal to feel a little homesick at first. That just means you love your family! In a few days, it will pass as you get involved with all the fun, new activities.