If you’ve spent any time on this site, you know I’m a HUGE fan of Pattie Fitzgerald and her business SafelyEverAfter. The seminar of hers I attended earlier this year at Diddy and Gaga’s preschool inspired my top post thus far — “Tricky People” Are the New Strangers — which led to the both of us being SURPRISE-featured on a CBSMiami story last week. (How does one get SURPRISE-featured on a CBS news story? I will be blogging about that soon. It was a trip-and-half, the kind of trip that starts REALLY REALLY BAD … and ends with the forces of right, and good, and decent, and honest, and honestly, REALLY ANGRY, somehow winning the day. How’s that to keep you coming back for more?)
Anyway: I love Pattie. So I’m thrilled to be hosting her here today. Read on, and rest easy that your kids are going to have the incredible summer camp experience YOU deserve. (Oh, happy, quiet, empty house … I DREAM of my kids getting big enough to leave me alone in my happy, quiet, empty house for a few weeks!)
Summer Camp! Kids love it, so do parents. It’s practically a rite of passage!
Most camps are safe and the experiences can create a lifetime of wonderful memories for our kids. But, before packing everyone up for the summer, take a few minutes to review our safety checklist with helpful parent tips so that camp can be the fun and exciting experience it should be for everyone.
1. Find out if the camp is accredited by the ACA – American Camp Association.
While it isn’t a foolproof guarantee, it shows that the camp takes its responsibilities seriously and must follow certain guidelines and regulations regarding health and safety. If a camp makes lots of excuses why they aren’t certified, find another camp.
2. Check out the staff. It’s ok to ask:
- Who are the counselors (high school or college students, hired hands?)
- What’s their training and supervision policies?
- How are they screened, background checked, are they fingerprinted? (That’s the only way to ensure that there isn’t a registered sex offender working there. The camp should do more than just calling someone’s references.)
3. What’s the camper to counselor ratio?
There should be at least 2 counselors to every group, particularly for very young age groups.
4. Sleep-away camp? Who’s sleeping where?
Are they in bunks, tents, sleeping bags, cabins? How many counselors are assigned to each cabin? And what’s the policy if a child needs to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night?
5. How are the age groups separated?
Much older campers shouldn’t have a lot of unsupervised time around much younger campers.
6. Set up the “safe grownup list” ahead of time with your child.
Who else can they go to if they feel uncomfortable or get an “uh-oh feeling” from anyone there, including another child?
7. Have a conversation with your child ahead of time …
… and review some basic personal safety concepts including “no private parts games” and “no secrets if something makes them feel yucky.” Let your child know they are the BOSS OF THEIR BODY, whether they are 5 or 13.
8. Give your child a couple of strong “scripted lines” to help them be assertive.
For example, “That’s NOT Ok.”. “Stop touching me.” “I said NO!”
With a little “safety net” in place, your campers can have an awesome time this summer.
Pattie Fitzgerald is the founder of Safely Ever After, Inc. and is recognized as a leading expert in the field of child safety and sexual abuse prevention education. A former preschool teacher, Pattie is certified as a Safety Educator and Child Visitation Monitor, and has worked tirelessly as a child advocate for over ten years. Admired for her positive approach, Pattie’s unique brand of “Safe-Smarts curriculum” is used in schools throughout the United States. She is the author of two children’s books, “NO Trespassing – This Is MY Body!” and “Super-Duper Safety”. Pattie has been featured on Good Morning America, CNN Headline News, CNBC, and MSNBC. www.safelyeverafter.com
Right after Diddy was born, I was in the car listening to NPR and I heard a child safety educator say, “Stop telling your kids not to talk to strangers. They might need to talk to a stranger one day. Instead, teach them which sorts of strangers are safe. You know who’s safe? A mom with kids. Period. Your kid gets separated from you at the mall? Tell her to flag down the first mom with kids she sees.”
This was fantastic advice. I have shared it with everyone who will listen, ever since.
Last month, I finally got to meet the woman who’d said this brilliant thing, when I had the enormous good fortune of attending a kid’s safety seminar led by Pattie Fitzgerald of Safely Ever After. Safely Ever After offers seminars to adults and children on the subject of “keeping kids safe from child molesters and abuse.”
I didn’t seek Pattie out. I don’t spend every moment of the day worrying that my kids are going to end up in white slavery. But Diddy and Gaga’s preschool offers the material to parents of pre-K students as a preamble to teaching it to the pre-K kids, and Diddy’s a pre-K kid, so I went to hear what Pattie had to say. (And in light of all the Miramonte Elementary madness, I am thrilled I did.)
If it makes you uncomfortable to think about offering this sort of material to a 5 year-old, let me reassure you by saying our school offers an opt-out. But after spending a morning listening to Pattie’s presentation, I can honestly say I would have let her go teach my 3 year-old about “tricky people.” If the boys could understand it, I’d have her come over and talk to them, too.
And they’d like it. Really. I did. Sitting around listening to all the horrible things that could happen to your kids might not sound like a good time — but oddly enough, with Pattie Fitzgerald, it is.
For one thing, Pattie knows her stuff, and I felt confident that her information was accurate and her advice studied and strong. For another, she’s pretty funny — so the material she presented never felt horribly gloom-and-doomy so much as matter-of-fact and manageable.