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Choosing Safe Summer Experiences for Youth

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As we enter a summer season, there is much excitement to be had for kids of all ages during these summer months. Many of us agree that it is the best time of the year, and have positive memories from summer adventures. While parents and families are seeking engaging, character building, AND fun activities for their kids, it’s important to consider “safety” on that list of essential criteria.

When it comes to safety, there are some common practices that readily come to mind: maintaining safety around water and swimming pools, wearing helmets and protective gear during sports or games, reapplying sunscreen regularly and staying hydrated in the Texas heat. These are examples of basic and important habits to establish and reinforce so that kids have positive memories, rather than injuries, from summer experiences.

There is another realm of child safety that all caregivers should also be paying attention to this summer: child protection and, more specifically, child sexual abuse prevention. In reality, 1 out of 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Read that again: ONE out of TEN. 90% of abused children know their abuser, so it is important that we understand how to create safe environments for youth to have caring and appropriate relationships with adults and other youth. The good news is, this type of abuse IS preventable, and there are excellent resources for parents and youth serving professionals to know, see, and respond to the signs of sexual abuse.

When making a choice about the camps, summer events, or activities a child will attend, it’s important for caregivers to ask the right questions. Youth serving organizations should be ready and willing to talk about the measures they take to prevent child sexual abuse. Below are five straightforward questions to start the conversation, adapted from Darkness to Light.

  1. Is there a child protection policy?
  2. Does the policy include limiting isolated, one-on-one situations?
  3. How are employees AND volunteers screen and trained?
  4. Do older and younger children interact, and if so, how?
  5. Are there clear procedures for reporting rule breaking, suspicions, or incidences of abuse?

If you don’t like the answers you receive to any of these questions, it’s time to explore other summertime opportunities. You would not allow your child to play on broken playground equipment, ride in a car without a seatbelt or child seat, or have access to poisonous substances. As adults, keeping kids safe includes getting out of our comfort zones and making courageous decisions.

For children not enrolled in formal youth-serving programs, parents still have an opportunity to put safety measures in place. Check out summer sleepover tips, general steps to protecting kids, and guidance for talking to children about boundaries and appropriate relationships at Darkness to Light, Crime Stoppers of Houston, the Children’s Assessment Center of Houston, and other great resources.  Whether at the waterpark, on family vacation, planning a neighborhood sleepover, or attending sporting events, all adults can step up to prevent abuse this summer. The children in our lives, and in our broader communities, deserve it.

Posted by YMCA of Greater Houston on 5 Jun 2019