Sending your child away to camp for the first time can be a daunting experience, especially if you’ve had trust issues in the past. It’s easy to get lost in worried thoughts when you’re afraid your loved one will be tempted to experiment with drugs or other unhealthy habits when she’s away from you, so it’s important to establish some trust before she leaves.
It may sound easier said than done, but there are many ways you can ensure your child will remember your expectations and be able to make good decisions while she’s away from home. Talk to her openly about the things she might face at camp--peer pressure, bullying, exposure to drugs or alcohol--and find ways to give her the tools she needs to say no or stand up for herself.
Here are a few of the best ways to go about it.
Talk about what she might face
Open up a line of communication with your child about the things she may encounter when she’s away from home for the first time. Try to be as forthright as possible and allow your child to ask questions. Don’t get defensive; rather, think about times in your own life when you had to face temptation or cruel behavior from friends and be open. Check out these tips for talking to your child about drugs and alcohol.
Communicate what trust is
Talk to your child about the fact that trust is a two-way street; not only do you need to be able to trust her, she needs to be able to trust you. This doesn’t mean that she should expect you to give in or let her do what she wants at all times; rather, she needs to learn that she can rely on you to tell her the truth and protect her. For her part, she needs to understand what her role is as the child. To further drive the point home, illustrate some examples of what she can expect if she does show that she’s trustworthy, such as a later curfew or more time to spend with friends. It’s also important to let her know what you expect and what the consequences will be if she fails to meet those expectations. Be specific in order to get the results you want, and make sure you follow through with your end of the bargain, as that is one of the major keys where trust is concerned.
Give positive reinforcement
Everyone likes to know when they’ve done a good job, so when your child makes an effort to follow your example, take a moment to give positive feedback. Simply saying “Good job!” can make a world of difference to kids.
Give her the right tools
Having the right tools can mean the difference between being able to say no and giving in to temptation when faced with peer pressure or bullying. Talk to your child about what to say and how to react in the moment, such as giving a simple but firm “No” and leaving the situation immediately. Having a script of sorts to use when that moment arrives can help her find the courage to do the right thing.
Remember that building trust takes time, so it might be a good idea to sit down with your child well before she leaves for summer camp and have a talk about how your family can work on it. Allow her to see you living up to your end of the bargain, which will show her how she should behave in turn. Keep the lines of communication as open as possible and let your child come to you with any issues she may have, which will definitely build up her trust in you.