A Test of Values ~ Sleep-Away Summer Camp
You’ve taught your kids right from wrong. You’ve instilled the values that are important to you. Now, your kids are going to a sleep-away summer camp where they will be 24/7 exposed to people whose values may differ from your own . . . and you won’t be there to reinforce the values you’ve instilled. What can you do to help your kids maintain their values in the presence of potential peer pressure to act otherwise?
Prepare your kids in advance of going to summer camp. Let your kids know what behavior you expect of them while they are away. Talk to them about peer pressure and how they need to be confident and independent enough to stand their ground. Role play situations in which they must decline peer pressure. Ask them how you can help them not to feel lonely while they are gone. For example, if you gave them a cell phone and called them each evening, would that make them feel less lonely and less vulnerable to persuasion from peer pressure? Or how about daily letters from home? Or inexpensive values-reinforcing thinking-of-you gifts that they can unwrap, one for each evening while they are gone? Or simply a good book in which they can get lost while other kids are doing things inconsistent with your values.
Give your kids the safe space to communicate with you when they are feeling tempted or vulnerable. If they can call you when they need reinforcement of their values, and if they can feel comfortable sharing their need without your judging or lecturing them, they will be more likely to seek your reinforcement rather than trying to forge ahead on their own. For example, if Johnny is feeling tempted to smoke because “all the boys are doing it”, make sure Johnny knows it’s ok to call you and talk to you about how outside-the-group he is feeling. Don’t lecture him about feeling tempted. Instead, validate that temptation exists. Express empathy for his situation. Ask him how he would like to handle the situation. Coach and counsel him as needed . . . but never in a critical manner. You might say, “I hear you saying that one cigarette can’t be that bad and it would help you fit in. Maybe one cigarette would help you fit in, but is that the crowd you want to fit into? How many cigarettes does it take before a person becomes addicted? Are you sure it’s more than one? I don’t know the answer here, but I worry that you may ultimately smoke more than one cigarette . . . and we both know the problems associated with smoking. What are your thoughts?”
Give your kids the safe space to communicate poor choices. If Johnny chooses to smoke one cigarette just to fit in, make sure that he will feel comfortable telling you what he has done without fear of reprisal. Your non-judgmental response might be, “Now that you’ve smoked that one cigarette, has it helped you fit in? Do the boys include you in their group now? Are you enjoying the group? What all do you boys do together? All in all, are you comfortable with the choice you’ve made relative to the outcome?” After this discussion, you can ask “Have you smoked any additional cigarettes? How are you feeling?” If Johnny has taken up smoking (more than one cigarette), he already knows your position on the matter so you don’t need to say anything more than, “Well, while I’m not a supporter of smoking, I’m glad you told me about your choice. I am grateful for your trusting me to handle that information well. Am I correct in assuming that you are smoking only because of the summer camp group . . . in other words, that you won’t smoke once you return to your non-smoking circle of friends here at home?” You may also add, “If you find it hard to stop smoking, please know I am here to help.”
In limited circumstances, you may contact the camp counselor to inform him/her about the misdeeds being perpetrated at camp. You should do this only in the most extreme circumstances. For example, if seasoned campers are hazing first-time campers, that should be reported to the camp counselor. Should you choose to report such a matter, make sure that you communicate what you are going to do to your kids. Never do something “behind their backs” as their trust in you may be diminished.
When your kids return home from summer camp, encourage your kids to share their experiences with you. “Accidentally bump into” someone you know with emphysema so Johnny can see what smoking can do. Talk with your kids about their choices while at camp, praise their good choices, and ask what you can do next time to help them through situations in which poor choices were made this time. (Note: do not call these “poor choices” when speaking with your kids. It is important for you to reinforce your values without being judgmental of other choices. Your kids need to know that you love and accept them, no matter what.)
By following the above steps, you can prepare your kids for the test of values that is upcoming sleep-away summer camps.
For more useful tips, continue to visit Nannies4hire.com.