Schools and homework are winding down and camps are gearing up. Sorry, my dear parents, your summer vacation from parenting never really happens. In reality, there’s never a vacation from parenting. But you already know that. It’s important though to prepare your child so that he can enjoy a “win-win” this summer.
Whether it’s overnight or day camp, your child will be changing clothes in close proximity to others. I hope and pray your children’s camps have guidelines for changing times. This should be included in a child protection policy and code of conduct developed by the camp which the camp’s professional heads have communicated to all staff and trained accordingly. Further, if the Heaven Forbid were to happen, what is the camp’s policy for addressing it? How is such a situation reported? How will the camp deal with a predator of any age?
Rooms that are on camp grounds that are not required for camp activities should not be accessed. The rooms required for activities can be clearly seen and easily accessed. During camp activities, doors should be kept open. Preferably, camp staff should be working in pairs.
This is an ideal time to instill or re-instill in your child a respect for his body as well as respecting his peers for their bodies. It’s also an appropriate time to discuss that no person should ever touch or examine his private parts unless it is a physician or other health care professional and only with a parent in the room.
Sometimes, intuition can tell us when another person’s vibe is projecting something off kilter or danger might be lurking. Encourage your child to listen to his “gut feeling” and keep away. Your child may want to discuss these feelings with a trusted staff member.
Camps have zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol. Again, if the Heaven Forbid were to happen, what is the camp’s protocol for addressing such behavior? I urge you to discuss this with your child in advance of camp so that he is prepared in case he encounters the Heaven Forbid. Some suggested language: “I love you very much and want only the best for you which means that you are safe at all times. It is possible that you may see people indulging in drugs and alcohol. I won’t be physically present but I hope and pray that you will exercise your free will to walk away and never touch the stuff. You are helping others by reporting it to the camp. Please know that I love you and you can talk to me about anything.”
Summer time equals sun time and it’s crucial that our children (and all people) need sunscreen in order to be protected from the sun’s harmful rays, no matter how wonderful sunning may feel in the moment. Sunscreen use can help prevent skin cancer which any person can get, regardless of age, gender or race. Of course, the first and best line of defense is to cover up and to remain in the shade as much as possible between 10 am and 3 pm. Sunscreens should offer broad-spectrum protection, Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 and higher, and water resistance. Teach your children to apply, apply and apply, especially after swimming. Instruct counselors how they can help as well with younger children and applying. Sunscreens are also for cloudy days. Brimmed hats are also a good avenue for sun protection (Borsalinos not necessary) as are some of the contemporary swim cover-ups available.
Summer time equals water. Water is fun but it means following the rules. Swim only where it is clearly marked. This includes pools, lakes and oceans. Hopefully, your child’s camp has a strong swim program. Investing in swimming lessons is a fabulous way to empower children.
Speaking of water, a win-win summer entails encouraging your children to hydrate at every opportunity with water. Children are at greater risk for dehydrating because their bodies do not cool down as efficiently as adults. Make sure your child has access to cool drinking water at all times. Speak with them about scheduling hydration breaks. Before prolonged physical activity, a child should be well-hydrated. During the activity, periodic drinking should be enforced: For example, each 20 minutes, 5 oz of cold tap water or a flavored sports drink for a child weighing 90 lbs, and 9 oz for an adolescent weighing 130 lbs. This holds true even if the child does not feel thirsty. Sugary drinks are not recommended as they can aggravate dehydration. Sorry kids, my own included.
In summary, having healthy boundaries and a sense of self, being able to communicate, applying sunscreen and hydrating will go long ways to assuring a great summer for each child. Most important of all – You daven and your child davens. It’s all up to Hashem.
Dr. Hylton I. Lightman is a senior statesman among pediatricians, an internationally-recognized authority and diagnostician, a public speaker, expert witness and go-to resource for health issues in the Orthodox Jewish community and beyond. Originally from South Africa, he started his current practice, Total Family Care of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway, PC in 1987. Dr. Lightman is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FAAP). Dr. Lightman is a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine. In addition, he is actively involved in teaching pediatric and family nurse practitioners through Columbia University, Pace University, Lehmann College, and Molloy College, as well as mentoring physician assistants through Touro College. Read more here.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.