Sep 06 2016
Jun 12 2016
Summer camp can be great fun and is often a rite of passage for many kids. Camps help our children experience new activities, make new friends, explore diversity, and help foster independence. Plus, it’s pretty great to get them outdoors, instead of sitting behind a computer, TV or video gaming screen. If you’re sending your child to camp this summer (day camp or sleepaway camp), it’s our job to make sure we’re choosing the safest environment we can.
Here are 7 questions a parent should ask when choosing a camp, AND 7 things to talk to your child about as they go off.
7 QUESTIONS A PARENT SHOULD ASK:
1. Are you ACA accredited? Not a foolproof guarantee, but it does indicate they’ve taken the necessary steps to meet health and safety standards, and also indicates that the camp takes its responsibilities seriously.
2. How do you screen staff:
* Who are the counselors (high school or college students, hired hands?)
* What are the camp’s training and supervision policies?
* Who supervises the counselors and CIT’s (counselors in training)?
* Is there any staff training regarding physical boundaries, certain language or
precautions concerning discipline?
* How are employees screened?
Background checks, fingerprinting, sex offender register? Again no guarantees, but you’d be surprised who or what can slip through the cracks if the camp administrators don’t do their “due diligence” ahead of time. The camp administrator should be able to answer this question quickly and clearly. Don’t settle for excuses like “we know everyone here, we’ve never had to worry about it…”
3. Who’s sleeping where / who’s changing where/What kind of supervision is there during this? No supervisor, CIT, or counselor should EVER be changing in front of the kids they’re in charge of. In plain English, counselors should never be UNCLOTHED when kids are around! This is for the kids’ safety as well as the reputation of the camp and the counselors. Older kids should have separate sleeping quarters from younger children.
4. Is the staff trained to recognize signs in someone’s behavior that indicate they should not be around kids? Child molesters are notorious for finding ways to be around children and hide their “true selves” around unsuspecting or naïve employers. Their typical grooming trick is to favor one child, and then take that child out of group activities to do something “special” elsewhere. Let your camp administrator know ahead of time that your child is to stay with the group at all times unless there is a serious medical emergency. They should not be alone with one adult or counselor in a private environment (like the changing rooms, cabins, woods, etc.) Counselors are mandated reporters — the camp must do this staff training with counselors before the job starts!
5. How do they handle emergencies such as: lost child, injuries, severe allergic reactions (food, insect bite, etc.) Staff should be CPR trained, and there should be some kind of medical staff, nurse, or medic available.
6. What’s the ratio of staff to children? A good standard to go by: 2 staff members per 8-10 children, depending on age groups.
7. Can I meet my child’s counselor or communicate by phone, at least on the first day? If possible, meet your child’s counselor ahead of time or at least on the first day of camp and let them know you and your child have set up certain family rules and have had conversations about appropriate boundaries and behaviors. When YOU put out a “visible parent vibe”, you significantly lower the risk of someone targeting your child.
Don’t be afraid to ask these questions.
It’s ok to ensure that your child’s summer camp experience is both fun and safe! NEXT…
7 THINGS TO TELL YOUR CHILDREN AS THEY GO OFF TO CAMP:
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 go wandering off somewhere else.
4. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or you’re having any kind of problem, tell your counselor right away. 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. If your counselor doesn’t help you or is part of what is making you feel uncomfortable, tell another safe grownup at camp – maybe another counselor or the camp director. (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. Enjoy!
May 14 2016
Proof that teaching the tricky people/safety rules concept works so much better than ineffective “stranger-danger.” Huge thanks to this Mom blogger for sharing how Safely Ever After’s safety rules helped her son avoid a “thumbs down” tricky person. A great read here. http://timewellspent.today/the-tricky-people-concept-and-how-it-saved-my-boys/
Jun 12 2015
Last Sunday’s Dateline episode was a huge eye-opener for many parents. (If you missed it, click the Dateline link here.) Below is a checklist for parents to review with their kids. It’s not about being a helicopter parent, it’s about teaching them how to handle certain situations and how to be independent. You wouldn’t drop a kid in the deep end of the pool and tell ’em to swim… unless you’ve really taught them how to first AND you know they’re ready.
What Every Kid Should Know…
A 12-Point Checklist for Parents & Kids To Review
Teaching kids “safe-smarts” doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming for parents. For everyone…Put out a vibe that says you’re not an easy target. DISTRACTION means “easy target” to a perpetrator. Whether you live in Smalltown, USA or a big urban city, every kid should know the following:
1. No headphones in your ears, no talking on the phone or texting. A perpetrator has the upper hand if he can take you by surprise.
2. Do a visual inventory & stay ALERT. Are there risky spots along your route: alleys, doorways, parking lots, empty lots or deserted buildings? If so, avoid whenever possible or be extra attentive if you must take that route.
3. Don’t be too polite, especially to someone you don’t know. You don’t have to “help” anyone who approaches you needing assistance (directions, carrying packages, looking for lost pets, etc.). It’s OK to say “Sorry, can’t help you today.” Asking a kid for help is one of the oldest tricks in the book!!
4. Disengage… “cut the conversation” and MOVE ON. The longer you keep talking to someone who’s trying to get you to do something, the more likely they’ll eventually be able to talk you into it, which means: #5 below!
5. Know You’re Exit Strategy and GET OUT OF THE “Danger-Zone” immediately. Remove yourself from the perpetrator’s easy access. Change direction, cross the street, go into a nearby store or business.
6. Have established “Safe-Stops” along the way where you can go quickly if you’re getting an “uh-oh” feeling from anyone. (Especially for kids who walk home from school everyday!)
7. Stay Out in the Open. No shortcuts through secluded areas where you cannot be seen.
8. Go “Bananas”! If you’re grabbed or accosted, start yelling…. “Help, Call 911, This is not my parent.” Drop your belongings, run, kick. Do whatever you need to do to call attention to yourself.
9. Don’t Obey The Perpetrator! If someone says “don’t run/don’t yell” – you should RUN AND YELL. That perp. is actually telling you that if you RUN and YELL, chances are he’ll have to stop trying to victimize you.
10. Never, ever get into a vehicle with someone you don’t know, or even with someone you know, unless you’ve gotten permission ahead of time from your parent. Sometimes a perp. is a stranger, but sometimes it can even be someone known to the family. A kid’s response should simply be: “Sorry, not allowed”.
11. Have a “FAMILY CODE WORD”. If anyone (even someone you know) tells you they were sent to pick you up, ask for the CODE WORD. If that person doesn’t know it, it means they’re lying. Get away quickly.
12. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. That “Uh-Oh Feeling” is the best barometer for letting you know something’s not right. Don’t ignore it!
Mar 06 2015
Remember when all you had to do was “friend” your kid on Facebook and you could keep up with their online socializing. Those days are long gone. Once the grownups starting enjoying Facebook themselves, it became “uncool” for kids, plus there are so many newer, faster, jazzier ways for them to socialize online now. Instant gratification seems to be the norm here. So, here’s what you need to know, parents: the apps and social sites they’re going to, how they work and the pros/cons and everything in between. Click on this link to learn the 15 Apps & Social Media Sites Kids Are Using right now.
Thank you to Common Sense Media for putting it all together!
Jul 01 2014
(This one’s a little long, but totally worth it!)
Sleepovers?!? Personally, I’m not a huge fan of them, mainly because in my experience, no one ever gets much sleep! The day after a sleepover is very often a cranky disaster, but that’s another story.
At some point every parent asks the same question… should we or shouldn’t we?
Option A – You could make your rule: NO SLEEPOVERS EVER. Plenty of parents take this approach, plain and simple. And that’s ok. Every parent is allowed their own comfort level on this one and there shouldn’t be any judgments made if a parent decides they just aren’t doing them.
Option B – If Option A isn’t for you, that’s ok too. Many parents have fond memories of sleepovers when they were kids and would like their children to be able to enjoy the same thing…which is fine PROVIDED: you use common sense, ask the right questions beforehand, and make sure your child knows what to do if the sleepover starts to go in the wrong direction and they don’t feel comfortable.
Sleepovers can be fun, but they can also be a slippery slope for the simple reason that there is often less supervision over a longer period of time. And, late at night when it’s quiet, a child may not know how to seek out help if something goes wrong.
If you’re going to allow your child to sleep at a friend’s house, do your “due-diligence” first. Is there anyone in that household (adults or other kids) with bully issues or other aggressive traits? If so, I’m not letting my kid sleep over there. Who else is sleeping over? Who’s supervising… Is it the parents or are the babysitter and her boyfriend watching the kids tonight?
What’s the household like? Some families have much different rules about what is allowed… games, tv shows, computer use? I’m not too keen on sleepovers where kids are allowed to gather around the laptop in their friend’s bedroom till all hours. I want to know that the adults in charge are monitoring and have specific rules and time limits for technology. Kids should not be allowed technology in the bedroom at a sleepover and you have the right as the parent to ask about that!
And then of course, is the concern that most parents have… what about their child’s personal safety, particularly when it comes to “unsafe touches?” That’s a healthy and appropriate concern you should address before ever allowing a sleepover.
It’s important to have specific conversations ahead of time with our kids and make sure they’re able to stick up for themselves if necessary. It’s not enough to tell your child “no one is allowed to touch your private parts.” Kids need to know what to DO and SAY if this happens. They need an “exit strategy”. And they won’t necessarily be able to think of it themselves unless we’ve taught them what to do.
Give your child “scripted responses” they can use if necessary. Lines like: “I don’t let anyone touch my penis, not even my friends.” “It’s MY body and I said NO.” “Hands Off MY Body NOW!” (Practice these with your child. It may come in handy at other times, besides sleepovers!) Then, your child should know it’s time to get some support. Either find the grownup/parent in charge or call up their own mom or dad and say “This sleepover isn’t going so great, please pick me up.” If the sleepover is at your house and your child is uncomfortable by another child’s actions, he can “redirect” the dynamic and say “I need a drink of water” or “I’m going to the bathroom”, and then come to get you right away. Give your child a code they can use with you, something like: “I miss our dog tonight, or I have a tummy-ache.”
Let your child know that sometimes sleepovers don’t always work out in a fun way, and if he gets a “confused, uh-oh feeling” even from a friend or a grownup there, he can call you anytime. You can also reassure him that he may still be allowed sleepovers in the future, but that sometimes we just have to call it off if someone else isn’t doing the right thing. This way, your child won’t feel badly for telling you and he’ll understand that he won’t be “penalized” in the future by never being able to go on a sleepover again. This will go a long way in his trusting the lines of communication with you.
Before allowing sleepovers, check out some of the questions below:
Do you know everyone who lives at the home or is staying there at the moment?
Is this a chaotic, stressful household with minimal supervision?
Do the parents have similar values as you?
Do they make you feel guilty or silly for simply asking questions or being concerned?
Anyone in the household have a substance abuse problem?
Has anyone there, including another child, ever given you an “UH-OH FEELING” FOR ANY REASON?
Will your child need to take a bath there? (Note: the smartest choice is for the child to bathe at home before going).
Does anyone in the household (including adults & children) seem overly sexualized or “off” in some way?
Who is supervising… parents or nanny/babysitter and her boyfriend?
Who else is sleeping there? Other kids, adults, older siblings’ friends?
Is your child mature enough to speak up for themselves when they feel uncomfortable or uneasy?
Does your child know they can call you at any time and you’ll pick them up?
Does your child have the maturity or ability to stick up for themselves if something makes them uncomfortable?
Have you had a clear conversation about “thumbs up and thumbs down touches” with your child?
Have you shown them WHERE the phone is in that home if they need to call you but are afraid to ask the parents there to use the phone?
It’s our job as the parent to evaluate each situation individually, and make sure it really is a safe place for our child… and that includes sleepovers, drop-off playdates, family reunions, after-school activities, and any other environment where our child is on their own. It’s not about helicopter parenting… it’s about making smart, safe, educated decisions when it comes to our kids!
Check out these children’s books for ways to talk to your kids about personal safety:
“No Trespassing – This IS MY Body!” and “Super Duper Safety School”…. Available at amazon.com or safelyeverafter.com