Camp can be an amazing, affirming experience for Your LGBTQIA+ child, let us help you find the right one!
I have some very fond memories of my 3 summers at “Farm Camp,” but also some unpleasant ones. Camp was where I got to connect with friends, ride horses (my favorite activity!), sing songs, do silly dances, go on scavenger hunts, have campfires, and wait anxiously for letters and care packages from home.
But camp was also the place I developed “street smarts” to consistently avoid one of the camp owners who gave off ick-inducing, inappropriate vibes. We didn’t receive Stranger Danger messaging (and he wasn’t a stranger, so I’m not sure that would have helped) or “Good touch/Bad touch” warnings in my day, and I can guarantee “pedophile” was not in my vocabulary back then.
It never occurred to me to tell my beleaguered mom that we all thought he was a “perv” – after all, she sent me to camp all summer because she had to work. And I really did love everything else about camp. I do know that I didn’t personally experience any trauma-inducing behavior from him, thank goodness. I hope that our instinctive, albeit immature, attempts to protect the young campers through diversion and always moving in groups were successful in keeping others safe.
I’m sharing this because I want every kid to have a safe and joy-filled experience at camp. Most camps are wonderful places where kids can grow, learn, discover, and meet new friends. Parents need to do the due diligence to check out the camp before sending a deposit. Here are some questions to help you find the right camp for your kiddo.
Questions to ask the camp:
- Is the camp accredited? And by what agency? The American Camp Association is considered by many to be the gold standard – here are their standards at a glance.
- What is your process for accepting campers?
- What training does staff receive about safety, child development, and establishing safe boundaries for themselves and the campers?
- Does every person (not just counselors) who interacts with the campers undergo a background check?
- How does the camp handle bullying or negative behavior?
- What happens if my child isn’t getting along with other campers, especially bunkmates?
- How do you help campers acclimate to camp and how do you handle homesickness?
- Who should my child go to in case they need a safe adult to talk to?
- How often, and in what ways, can I communicate with my child while they are at camp?
- What percentage of campers return for more than one year?
- How do you handle romantic or sexual relationships between campers? Between staff members?
Questions to ask yourself (and your kiddo):
- What are they hoping to experience at camp?
- Are there activities that they definitely do/don’t want to do?
- Are they ready to be as independent as the camp may expect them to be?
- Am I interested in camp because I need them “out of the house” or because it’s the best experience for them? (it could be both!)
- Where are they in their identity journey and what will they need to feel affirmed at camp?
- Does my child have the social skills to make new friends?
- How comfortable are they with sleeping away from home? For how long?
- Are they able to speak up for themselves needed?
- Am I ready for them to be away?