In the Trenches: Working with Camper Parents

Dear Bob,
I had a run in with a camper parent last summer that made me very uncomfortable. We have a visiting day for parents once each session, which, as you might imagine, is a stressful day for campers, parents, and staff all around. During the early afternoon, I was accosted by a parent who was demanding to know why her fifteen-year-old son wanted to go home. I tried to reason with her, but she caught me off guard, and I felt awkward discussing this in the open with other parents and campers around.

Determining Competency: Essentials in Interviewing

"What you have to do is get them talking in such a way that they are unguarded. It could be anything they happen to be into, like their favorite baseball team or a dream they have about doing something. That's where you find out who they really are. By schmoozing in this way, I can tell whether I want someone on my staff or not!"

New Kids in the Tent: The Changing Profile of Today’s Camper

"Jason!" shouts Lamont, "Give me back my iPod® and get off of my bed!" Lamont gives Jason a little shove, and soon their counselor is trying to break up a shouting match. Both boys are eight years old and going into third grade. This is their first time at sleep-away camp, and the interactions in the "Explorers" cabin have been pretty bumpy so far.

Martin and His Friends: Counseling Skills that Effect Change at Camp

Martin was sitting in the office of the boys' head counselor again. He'd been playing "Ga Ga" when another camper got him out. In what had quickly become an all-tootypical response for nine-year-old Martin, he lashed out at the camper, charged him with cheating, and then got angry and swore at the counselor who had been trying to intervene. He accused the counselor of "always picking on" him and favoring the other camper. Eventually, Martin stormed off with the counselor in hot pursuit.

Working With Camper Parents: A Prescription for Success

The summer's tales are not all in yet, but I am sure that if this summer is like any other, the economic downturn notwithstanding, there will be plenty of stories about over concerned, hovering parents who were challenging to work with for camp professionals. There is, for example, the parent of a five-year-old day camper in the San Francisco area who was sure her child would be too traumatized by having to change for swim in front of other children unless she came in every day and held a towel up to give her daughter privacy!

Everybody’s In, Nobody’s Out!

As a camp counselor this summer, you are about to meet campers from all walks of life. Just a casual look at the changing demographics in the United States suggests that your chances of having an ethnically or racially diverse group of campers is, and will continue to be, greater than ever before. For example, the United States Census Bureau predicts that the number of Hispanics in the United States will almost double in the next twenty years, while Blacks will remain about the same.

Top 10 Tips for Working With Today's Campers

I remember when it occurred to me that working as a camp counselor was more than just having fun with campers. I was a first-year counselor at a boys' resident sailing camp on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. One of the boys in my cabin had the unfortunate luck of being both impulsive and having a temper. I say "unfortunate" because whenever "TJ" got into trouble—and because of his impulsivity that was much of the time—he had a temper outburst. Certainly TJ, I, and the other boys were having a lot of fun learning new skills in sailing and other activity areas.

Case Studies: Working with Challenging Camper Behavior

The following case study is based on a real-life situation at a camp for girls in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. I have altered the names of the specific campers and some identifying information to protect their privacy.

When They Come Home

It is probably difficult to imagine, as you scan the "packing list," count socks, get the trunk out, and make sure your child's name is on everything they are taking, what your son or daughter might be like when they come home from the summer adventure at camp—the adventure for which you are working so hard to get them ready.  Indeed, for many parents the send off requires enough emotional and logistical effort that there is no time to think about where all this work might lead.