Ahh, summer camp! Memories of night hikes under the stars, a pool to cool off in, funny songs and skits to giggle over, and time with friends. But let’s face it—not every moment spent with friends can be free of conflict. And when it’s a group of girls, that conflict can turn into relational aggression, a type of social bullying.
Relational bullying is usually quiet and hidden from others and happens between friends. Actions can involve mean notes, rumors, the silent treatment, eye rolling, abruptly withdrawing a friendship, or threatening to tell others’ secrets.
Properly trained camp staff should know how to deal with this type of behavior. Better yet, they’ll know how to keep it from happening in the first place! Being bullied at camp is not something any parent wants for a child. When a girl is bullied, she feels alone. When a girl sees someone else being bullied, she feels helpless.
Being equipped to deal with conflict and relational aggression is something that every budding leader needs. And we all know that today’s camps for girls are building more than campfires. The goal is to build more leaders through the camp experience.
When selecting a camp for your child, ask how staff is trained to deal with conflict situations and what strategies they use to deal with these issues. Ask how the camp incorporates good communication skill building into its activities.
While having confidence in the camp can ease a parent’s mind, helping your child by being proactive can help put your mind to rest. Take steps to help her prepare by simply bringing up the issue of handling conflicts and problems in a healthy way in your conversation routinely. Give her some examples. This way, your daughter can explore coping mechanisms ideas with you.
Every parent knows what it’s like when your child has a fight with a friend. Sometimes it’s as easy as telling her she may need to take time apart from that friend. But if your child is at camp, it would be nice to know she has some tools already in that communication toolbox you’re helping her create.
Here’s advice from girls who’ve gone through a program offered by the Girl Scouts’ Be a Friend First program, which is used to help train camp counselors. You can use these responses to get the conversation going with your daughter. Ask her what she thinks about these suggestions in dealing with conflict.
• Be honest. If you did something you regret, say that, and apologize.
• Don’t pretend to be friends with a girl and trash her behind her back because she did something that upset you.
• Move to a different seat at lunch on a temporary basis.
• After a conflict, talk about it once you have both cooled down, and ask a friend or a counselor to be there when you do. She can keep you both in check.
• If you need a confidant to share the story with, choose a person who is “safe.” A trusted adult would be a good choice.
• Try to think about your words before you use them.
With so much conflict going on in our world today, it’s more important than ever to teach kids tolerance and conflict resolution whenever we can. As a Girl Scout, girls take a promise that reminds them to respect themselves and others at all times. They recite this promise at troop meetings and every day when they are at camp. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all started our day by reminding ourselves and those we’re with that we’re going to behave with that type of dignity?
Marcy Germanotta is the communications and marketing director for Girl Scout Council of Colonial Coast. For more information about attending Girl Scout camp, becoming a Girl Scout, or volunteer opportunities, please visit www.gsccc.org or call 757-547-4405.