Ah, summertime as a kid. A time for lazy days at the pool, exciting trips, and plenty of sun and fun. But if you’re like most parents, you struggle with the balance between allowing your children the freedom to gain independence and keeping them safe and protected.
There’s good news: If your child attends a well-run summer camp, then she is surrounded by professionals who are trained to ensure her safety. From the administrative staff to the counselors, every staff member has been trained and certified in keeping campers as protected as possible.
But what about when your kid isn’t in camp? What about when he’s swimming in a local pool, playing baseball at a park, visiting an amusement park, or hanging out at his friend’s house?
I’ve been working in summer camps for over two decades. For the past ten years I’ve focused on setting up and implementing safety planning at Camp Shalom, a leading summer camp serving Teaneck, Bergenfield, Fairlawn, and Passaic, New Jersey, as well as Upper West Side and Riverdale, New York. I’d like to share with you five safety tips that I believe all parents should know. While some may seem like common sense, all are essential to ensuring that your child stays safe this summer.
#1 – Sun Safety: Sunburns aren’t just painful; they can also increase a child’s risk of developing skin cancer later in life. Send your child to camp wearing a hat with a brim (preferably one that shades the face, ears, and neck) and apply sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and UVA and UVB protection. Encourage your child to drink 5 to 6 glasses of water a day to protect from dehydration.
#2 – Safety Plan: Getting lost in a public area can be scary for unprepared kids – which is why it’s important to arm your child with a safety plan. First off, you’ll want to make sure your child has your phone number and address memorized. Also make your child knows that if she gets lost, she should stay in the same area so that you can find her, and she should ask someone in a uniform or a mother with children for help.
#3 – Personal Safety: Sit down with your child and teach him about personal safety rules. He should know that there’s a difference between a “good touch” and a “bad touch,” that it’s okay to say “no” if someone asks him to do something that makes him feel uncomfortable, and that no one should ever ask him to keep a secret from his parents.
#4. Water Safety: Make sure your child knows never to enter a pool without supervision. Teach them to walk around pools and only dive in areas that are marked for diving. Warn your child to leave any water area immediately if they see lightning.
#5 – Communication: One of the most important parts of keeping your child safe is making sure to keep an open line of communication at all times. Encourage your child to speak up if he feels uncomfortable about something, and if your child wants to talk, make the time to do so. Most importantly, try to be positive when your child does confide in you, rather than harping on what he did wrong that caused the situation.
Here at Camp Shalom, we take safety very seriously. Our counselors undergo twelve to fifteen hours of pre-summer training about camper safety, including water safety and safety precautions for each specialty activity. Counselors also receive additional training from Project S.A.R.A.H. about recognizing abuse, as well as health training from our two full-time nurses. All lifeguards at Camp Shalom are Red Cross certified and many of our counselors have CPR and First Aid certification as well.
So you can rest secure that in camp, we’ve taken every precaution to ensure that your child has a safe summer. But as a parent, you are the most important role model your child has, and the one who will teach him safety lessons that will stay with him for the rest of his life. This summer, show your children how much you love them by teaching them the rules they’ll need to stay safe not just this summer, but for years to come.