If your teen or preteen goes to camp, she’s put into an environment with kids outside her usual social milieu. Crushes, romances, and rivalries can develop; fascinating information (or misinformation, or rumors) about puberty and sex may be shared around the campfire. Kids may start thinking about these things more or differently than they usually do; they may find some of it confusing. That gives parents an opportunity to clarify—if you can get them talking.
You’ll probably need to ask some leading questions, but don’t make it into an interrogation or he’ll shut down. Here are some openers to try (not all at once 🙂 ):
“How is the social situation at camp different from back home at school? Is it harder or easier to make friends? Do people tend to hang out with people who are like them, or do different sorts of people all hang out together?”
“I bet some of the kids at camp have crushes on each other. Is there a lot of that going on?”
“I remember how jealous kids could get when someone they liked liked someone else better. Has there been any drama at camp when someone got jealous? How did people handle it?”
“Do people talk about who’s gotten her period and who hasn’t? Is everyone nice about it, or do some girls get teased?”
“When I went to camp, kids used to say things around the campfire that confused me. Some of those things turned out to be true, but others were totally wrong. I wonder what kinds of things kids talk about today.”
“Do the boys sometimes sneak over to the girls’ cabins at night to do pranks? Do the girls sneak over to the boys’ side? Is that fun for everyone, or does it go too far sometimes?”
“Are there rumors about kids doing things that maybe they shouldn’t do? How do you feel about that?”
“What are the counselors like? Do some of them date each other? I bet the campers talk a lot about what the counselors are up to.”
Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of these will actually get a response. But some might; it’s worth a try.