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

Mourning Summer 2020: How to Communicate Camp Closings to Your Community

At the end of last summer, most camp directors were already thinking about summer 2020. That’s because most camp directors I know are problem-solvers, and whatever might not have gone so smoothly in 2019 was already in their sights to improve for 2020. Then the unthinkable happened: a virus we can’t see upended the world, and along with it, the plans of many camp directors for the coming summer.

Co-Counselor Mash-Up: How to Work More Collaboratively — and Happily — With Your "Co"

Mariana and Jessica are exasperated with one another. Mariana thinks the girls they share responsibility for as co-counselors are way too noisy and messy. She is always the one who gets these rambunctious fifth graders to quiet down or finish their cabin cleanup chores. Because she is typically the counselor who speaks up first, the girls have begun to favor Jessica, whom they see as "nicer." Jessica, who went to camp here as a camper, thinks that Mariana is too strict.

The Next Wave Isn't Blue or Red — It's Young: Understanding and Supporting Gen Z

In November 2018, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg began a two-week strike in front of the Swedish Parliament. She was on a mission to bring attention to the looming threat of climate change and to protest the inaction of world leaders on the issue. When she started, she was alone. Less than a year later, on September 20, 2019, she was joined by a wave of more than 14 million people in a cascading series of protests that spanned the globe through 138 countries, beginning in Australia and ending 24 hours later in the Americas (Sengupta, 2019).

The Big Missteps in Camp Leadership Transition

I remember the call clearly. It was in September about 10 years ago when my longtime camp friend and colleague, Dave Tager, called about the transition of leadership at the camp he and his wife, Shelley, had run for almost 25 years. Over the course of that time, Dave and Shelley had built their coed resident camp, now called Camp IHC, into a successful and highly reputable camp. After 25 years of being ultimately responsible for thousands of other people's children, Dave was ready to turn the reigns over to a talented young couple. As Dave said to me, "I love camp!

Biting My Nails: Revisiting Staff Anxiety

It was three years ago when I first wrote about the increasing levels of anxiety that camp directors were seeing in their staff (Ditter, 2016). At the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta had been reporting that anxiety in children ages 13–18 was at a 40-year high (CDC, 2011). In a survey conducted by the American Camp Association’s Healthy Camps Committee after the summer of 2015, camp directors indicated that anxiety was their number one concern when it came to staff (Gaston, 2015).

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.