The ELCA offers a wide variety of outdoor ministries. With approximately 140 Lutheran camps, retreat centers and conference centers throughout the country, there are plenty of programs to choose from.
Through worship, study, games and activities, participants hear and see how active their faith can be, learning how to live and work together in an intentional Christian community. But as in any situation where children are away from home, parents need to give their kids the tools to protect them from bullying. They need to know how to handle situations and when they should talk to their counselors or other people in authority.
What is bullying?
Bullying is aggressive behavior by a child or a group of children who take advantage of the power they have to hurt or intimidate others.
Bullying can take many forms:
- Verbal abuse, including taunting, gossiping, mocking, name calling and dirty looks
- Physical abuse, including hitting, pushing, shoving and kicking
- Organized social rejection, including exclusion from activities or groups
- Public humiliation
- Threatening racist or sexist remarks
- Frightening acts
Bullying at camp
Camp is similar to school and other settings where bullying occurs. Children engaging in new activities, meeting new friends, establishing varying social groups at camp, and sharing living quarters with other campers present challenges to even the most well-adjusted child.
The good news is that camps are well equipped to address bullying and help the bully deal with counterproductive behavior, too. Proven supervisory practices, activities geared to the developmental level of individual children, and the promotion of a spirit of inclusivity and caring help children to exert higher degrees of cooperation and self-control.
How can I help my child deal with bullying?
Before camp begins:
- Discuss bullying with your child — what it is, why it is unacceptable and what your child’s response to it should be.
- Tell your child that you expect them to help a child who is being bullied or excluded.
- Encourage your child to talk to the camp staff — children need support from responsible adults to address bullying.
- Establish clear expectations about respecting others and gaining respect.
- Follow through with a consistent set of rules and consequences.
Once camp begins:
- Listen and communicate regularly once your child is at camp.
- Reinforce positive behavior with specific praise such as “Your counselor told me you controlled your temper when another child pushed you. That really helped the other campers not to get in a fight.”
What can I do if my child is bullied?
- Support your child — bullying is not the fault of the child being bullied.
- Gather information about the incident — who, what, when, where and how?
- Praise your child for attempts likely made for resolving the situation.
- Talk with the camp director about consequences for the child being the bully and help for your child with increased support from other campers and staff.
- Help your child understand that real friends are not mean to each other.
What If my child bullies?
- Try to get a full understanding of what happened.
- Ask yourself if there have been any recent changes or negative events in your child’s life.
- Discuss consequences of bullying with the camp director regarding specific episodes and the response from camp staff.
- Reinforce your rule that bullying must stop.
- Help your child understand how bullying affects others.
- Cooperate with the camp director and the staff to reinforce positive behaviors in your child.