Although camps are designed to be a fun place for children to learn and grow, it is not exempt from incidents of bullying. Whether at sleep-away camp or day camp, your child will be in an environment where they are expected to learn new things and interact with new people. Fitting in to the camp environment can be difficult for even the most well-adjusted child. Despite the efforts of trained camp counselors, not all kids will make a smooth transition to camp.
Warning Signs of Bullying
Some children will report incidents of bullying, however, there is a large portion of children who won’t. This is why it is so important to keep an eye out for warning signs your child is being bullied at camp. This is by no means an all-inclusive list, and yes, your child could show several of the warning signs below and not be a victim of bullying. With that said, some common signs of bullying includes your child:
1. Having unexplained injuries and bruises. Most camps have children running around all day so counselors aren’t able to account for every bump and bruise your child sustains. However, if your child seems more accident prone than usual, it might be time to get to the bottom of what’s causing it. Is your child going through a growth spurt that’s making them clumsy or are they being pushed around and too afraid/embarrassed to tell?
2. Frequently claiming that they lost or damaged personal belongings (i.e. clothing, electronics, games). This could certainly be a product of your child’s forgetful nature. Maybe they are so engrossed in camp activities that they lose track of their belongings. You know your child best and if your gut is telling you that your child is not being truthful about what is happening, it’s time to meet with the counselor to determine if your child really is that forgetful or if someone is taking and/or destroying their stuff.
3. Appearing sad, anxious, and/or lonely most days. Granted, children aren’t exempt from having bad days. However, consider it a red flag when your child appears sad, anxious, and/or lonely more often than not. If you notice your child suddenly being down in the dumps the majority of the time, it’s time to run an intervention to find out what is causing this change in mood. Are they going through a kid/tween crisis or are they being bullied regularly?
4. Complaining of stomach aches and/or headaches. When your previously healthy child begins to complain of frequent bouts of stomach aches and headaches right before they have to go to camp, chances are something at camp is at the root of their new found ailments, real or factitious.
5. Suddenly having trouble sleeping. Did your child suddenly start having trouble falling or staying asleep? Are they having nightmares? If so, they might be experiencing stress in some area of their lives. Now would be the time to rule out bullying as one of the contributing factors to your child’s sleep problems.
6. Having trouble eating. Maybe your child suddenly has no appetite and barely eats anything, or maybe they are constantly craving food and can’t get enough. Some parents like to attribute changes in their children’s eating patterns to hormones and growing pains. Even though this could very well be the case, you will want to talk to your child and the adults at camp to rule out bullying as the cause of their sudden change in appetite.
7. Withdrawing from friends and family with no explanation. Being bullied can make children feel depressed and bad about themselves. This can lead them to wrongfully believe that they aren’t good enough and don’t deserve to have people in their lives that care about them. This often leads them to withdraw from those closest to them.
What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied
Here are some measures you can take to ensure that they feel safe and protected in the future. For starters, make sure to:
• Be supportive of your child. You want your child to always know that you are on their side. Avoid asking them if they did something to provoke being bullied and don’t accuse them of overreacting even if you feel they are. You want your child to always feel comfortable confiding in you. If they doubt you support them, they will be less likely in the future to share their problems with you.
• Discuss your concerns with the adult in charge. Your child’s camp counselor and other camp staff are your first line of defense. It is crucial that you share your concerns with them. Not only will this alert them to what’s going on, it will make them more vigilant about how others are interacting with your child.
• Teach your child how to respond to bullies. In most cases, if a child responds to a bully by crying or getting angry, the bully will torment them relentlessly because they know they will get a reaction. Role play with your child how to ignore and walk away from a bully. In the event that they can’t get away, make sure your child knows who to talk to about being bullied.
Has your child been bullied at camp? How did you respond?
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