Bob Ditter is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in child, adolescent, and family therapy.

Connecting with Campers in the Age of Screens, Social Media, and Fortnite

Connecting with campers can be difficult for summer camp counselors now that campers have more screen time than ever.

"I Just Want My Kid to Be Happy!"

Dear Bob,

We had a 14-year-old returning male camper last year in our two-week resident camp who is generally a great kid but who presented with some behavior last summer that caused us to send him home. His parents were extremely upset given that they have had two other children in our camp for many years. They felt that we “owed them” more, that kids make mistakes and we should have figured out a way to let him stay. Another reason for their displeasure was that the boy was in his last year as a regular camper and would have been eligible for our LIT program next year.

A Sample of Issues from Camp 2018

I spend time with camp professionals from May to August consulting with directors on the more perplexing and complicated issues they face with campers, staff, or parents during the camp season. This year I met with or heard from 61 camp directors from around the country. Some of the issues I encountered included a heightened level of anxiety in both campers and staff. Many camp directors reported that they had several staff members who could not complete the season because of anxiety.

Tough and Tender: An Optimistic Trend in Male Staff

I was at the end of a full day of training 300 group leaders (GLs) at the San Diego YMCA in early May 2018. I ended with a story that I hoped would portray a deeper sense of friendship that campers can develop in the emotionally safe, tech-free space of a typical camp. I was also trying to give those eager GLs a glimpse of the kind of impact they could have on some of the over 10,000 campers who would be coming through the San Diego County Y day and resident camp programs in the next several months.

"Smile"

Dear Bob:

I am a camp director at a sleepaway camp in the Midwest. We have multiple sessions of two weeks each throughout the summer. At the start of each session I notice that our staff almost seem like the proverbial deer in the headlights when the new campers arrive. After all we cover during staff training they almost don’t know how to connect comfortably with their new crop of campers. Do you have any ideas that might help?

Muddled in Michigan

Dear Muddled,

Courageous Honesty: Critical Camp Conversations

I had made an early morning appointment with my chiropractor to help with some chronic lower back problems. Given my usual busy schedule, I made it for 8 a.m. — the first available appointment he offers in the morning — so I would have plenty of time to make it back to my office for a 9:30 a.m. appointment with a client of my own.

When I arrived at my chiropractor’s office at 7:59, I was greeted by his secretary. She asked me to have a seat and told me that “Dr. Jim” would be with me soon. At 8:15 I asked her calmly, “Is Jim here?”

The Impact of Technology and Social Media on Camp Staff

Miles is a first-time counselor at a sleepaway camp in the eastern United States. He had seen an online ad for the camp at which I met him and decided that a summer away from his Midwest town working with children would do him a lot of good. It would give him both a change of scenery and a sense of purpose — and would add to his résumé as an aspiring Recreation Education major at Kansas State University. The orientation at camp had really inspired him. The camp leaders kept talking about making a difference in the lives of the children.

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