July 21, 2024
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Making Your Child Aware of Abuse Risks at Sleepaway Camp

Bergenfield—When a child goes to an overnight camp for the first, second, or even the fourth time, they are excited and prepped for an array of new experiences. Camping, for many observant children, provides an exhila­rating opportunity to learn, study, and recre­ate in an entirely unique environment, with different inspirations, different friends, and different social structures from the rest of the year.

Camping, also, is often the first time a child is away from his/her parents for any length of time, and the first time having to share space with people outside the imme­diate family. Therefore, it’s important for par­ents to have plans in place to discuss appro­priate and inappropriate behavior with their children, including peer pressure, bullying, and abuse risks, before they get on the bus and depart for their summer adventure.

“I think the most important thing is that parents have a conversation with their kids about what they can and should expect in terms of privacy, person­al space, and appropriate touch,” said Sara Diament, who published a book last year called, Talking to Your Children About In­timacy: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Par­ents. As part of this conversation, Diament stressed, it is important to offer a specif­ic person that the child can and should al­ways go to if a problem develops.

Diament, who works in the field of ed­ucation and professional development, said her book is a starting point for peo­ple to understand how to talk to children about intimacy, before problems devel­op. Much of the book discusses how to broach broader intimacy topics. Abuse prevention and treatment is a field of its own, she said.

“Conversations don’t always prevent an initial incident, but the most impor­tant part of the conversation is to have the child identify a person they can go to, whether it is a trusted adult at camp or a parent to call. The child needs to know that if, at any point, any person makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, you should go to that person and discuss the problem,” she said.

“You should identify that trusted adult, with a name. Make sure your child knows who it is.”

Diament added that while different camps have different rules about calling par­ents, “kids should feel empowered to tell staff they have to contact their parents immedi­ately if they feel the need,” she said. “It’s less the content of the conversation that’s impor­tant, but the fact that the parents have initi­ated it, so the child knows what to do if s/he are faced with an uncomfortable situation,” she said.

Peer pressure often presents in a clas­sic scenario, Diament added. “If a child does not have a voice in his/her head that there’s someone they can always come to, then they’re at risk. If a child is made to feel un­comfortable in some way, and the person who is making him/her feel uncomfortable is very popular, that could present pressure on the child to not say anything. It’s the conver­sation beforehand with the parent that pre­vents the child from becoming the victim.”

“Pranks at camp are common. But the child should know that sometimes they’re not okay. If you’re showering or getting dressed and people are teasing you or being invasive, it’s not funny,” Diament said.

Diament added that, for younger chil­dren, a valuable picture book to read togeth­er on these topics is Let’s Stay Safe. Devel­oped by Project Y.E.S. as part of its Karasick Child Safety Initiative, the book presents es­sential lessons in safe and unsafe behav­ior, including staying away from strangers, personal safety, and safety in the home and neighborhood.

Let’s Stay Safe is available at http://www. artscroll.com/Books/safeh.html. Diament’s book is available at http://www.amazon. com/Talking-Your-Children-About Intimacy/ dp/1494245477/ ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=U TF8&qid=1402880494&sr=11&keywords=ta lking+to+your+children+about+intimacy+a +guide+for+orthodox+jewish+parents

By Elizabeth Kratz

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