Friday, November 21, 2008

Kids' Keys To Be Successfully Safe While You Holiday Shop

One of the scariest scenarios I think about is loosing my child in the mall or store.

I think most parents fear the possibilities of abduction, kidnapping, and loss. The holiday season, even though it is filled with excitement, blessings, and fun can be a predator's gift wish.

Parents can be more distracted, more in need of "help", and more vulnerable to grooming.
The reason why I use the term "grooming" is because abductions, assaults, and the possible loss of your child is usually done by a person you know, such as acquaintances and even those whom you believe you can trust.

However, there are some simple measures to keep your kids safe during the hustle and bustle of life and holidays:

1. Slow Down - When you feel like you need to get "everything" done, make things "perfect" for the holidays, let that "rush" be a warning to back off and slow down. Let that feeling be a cerebral call to check the bigger picture. Tune into your kids... tune into their needs, not their holiday "wants".

2. Never Leave Your Child Alone Somewhere New or With Someone New. Always let them have access to you. This may seem simple and redundant but if you are visiting family and friends, it may appear to your child you are too busy to care what they are doing. Take stock and check-in. More than normal, keep the lines of communications open, extra open.

3. Always Take Your Child to the Bathroom. Many public places now have "family restrooms", use them! If they don't, don't hesitate to take your son into the ladies bathroom. I know it may seem over protective but unless you are confident in your son's demeanor (He must have a confident, "Stay Away" aura. It's better to be safe than sorry.

4. Talk To Your Children. Talk to them about what to do if a situation doesn't feel right. Remind them to ALWAYS trust their gut. There is no shame in being safe. No embarrassment too big to risk being hurt. Talk to your children about who to go to, who to look for if you aren't available.

If for instance, you are separated, your child becomes loss... (I'm not talking about to go to the nearest police officer or clerk in the store. Just because someone is in a uniform doesn't mean he/she can be trusted.) Never tell your child to "never" talk to strangers. We talk to strangers everyday. So when you child see you talk to strangers all it does is negate your warnings. Instead talk about who would be a "good" stranger to seek out and ask for help?

Do you know who that would be? That is right, someone just like you... a mom, preferably with her own kids. Moms have a sick sense for this, it is like an automatic tracking system. We notice if a child is unaccounted for and have the instincts needed to "protect" children.

Always ask store, park, mall security to "lock down" if you loose sight of your child as soon as you notice your child missing. The faster that this happens usually the better outcome.

Again, it is better to be a little embarrassed than it is to regret.

If you would like more information about the grooming behaviors of predators and how to keep you and your kids safe, visit and sign up for my Parenting Leverage News.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Summer Camps by Jeffrey Carter

Parents send their children to summer camps to have fun, to experience new activities, and maybe to see a different part of the country, but there are also some incredibly important, and lasting, benefits that campers enjoy. What can parents expect their children to gain from their summer camp experience beyond the razzle-dazzle entertainment? What will stick with your kids after camp and when they're back at home? Here are a few of the areas of self-development a summer camp experience can enhance.

Relating to others: Summer camps are highly social environments where everyone is a member of a close-knit community. At the same time, they are often quite diverse. Children will meet others from different families, from different parts of the country, even from abroad. They will also interact daily with children of different ages. These different backgrounds, values, habits and ways of living can be disconcerting at first, but with encouragement and guidance can really help a young person learn to get along with people. Another way to say this, is that by encountering kids who are "different" a child learns to see past those differences and become friends. Learning to relate like this makes it much easier to make friends later in life.

Developing Creativity: Most summer camps provide numerous opportunities to make things, to practice different crafts, and to explore the arts. From woodworking, to fiber arts, to ceramics, to knitting, to blacksmithing, and so on, there are fantastic ways to be creative. Plus, kids are encouraged to try new things, to not worry about how "good" they are, and to be excited about the process of participating. Everyone realizes that we can create some pretty cool stuff if we give it a try.

Self-Confidence: Summer camps are supportive places, communities where everyone will look out for each other, and usually encourage each other. This kind of positive peer relationship is the perfect recipe for trying new things and being proud of your accomplishments. Kids might think they won't be able to do something (like climb a ropes course, for example), but when they try and succeed, it's strong evidence that they can do it. Doubt is transformed into bravery, fear into confidence, and the result is an enhanced sense of self-worth.

Independence: It's almost inevitable when a child goes to camp and sleeps away from home, away from the watchful eye of his or her parents- she will gain greater independence. Kids at camp make a lot of their own decisions, make choices about what to do, how to behave, and how to spend their free time. Of course, they also get to see the consequences of their choices too, and when it's their choice and not their parents, those consequences are all the more meaningful.

Being suddenly responsible for their own choices, is a very formative experience in a growing habit of independence.

Social Etiquette: Being around so many people and interacting with them so closely day after day, summer camps also require kids to develop certain social skills. Sharing, recognizing others' interests, dealing with arguments, showing empathy, being kind, offering to help, making honest suggestions- all of these are key ingredients. Every quality summer camp will create an environment where all of this is fostered and taught.

Of course most of these areas can develop at home and at school during the year, but summer camp provides an opportunity to practice these qualities, develop these aspects of a child's personality, and further develop the mature skill that make them effective. It's really remarkable how powerful the summer camp experience is in this regard. Sure it's fun, but it can also be so crucially formative too.

Jeffrey Carter is the Director of Rockbrook Summer Camp for Girls, a traditional girls summer camp located in Brevard, NC. He publishes the summer camp blog "The Heart of a Wooded Mountain."

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