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

Truth and Consequences: Interviewing Skills for Camp Professionals

Raymond (not his real name) is an experienced camp director on the East Coast. When it comes to interviewing staff, Raymond feels especially confident about his ability to "sniff out the good ones." Raymond says of his interviewing strategy: "I like to get them into a spontaneous conversation and see what kind of a feeling I get. I watch for good eye contact, spontaneity, give-and-take, and other nonverbal signs of communication. With the guys I like to schmooze about baseball. It gets their guard down and shows me how they really relate to people.

Healthy Camp Symposium Preview: Present Day Adolescent Sexuality and Its Implications for the Camp Community

Sex is a topic that elicits such strong emotions in people that it often becomes difficult to have a clear, calm, rational conversation about it. When that conversation concerns the sexual behavior of children and teens, things get even more emotional. Lynn Ponton, a well-known adolescent psychiatrist in San Francisco who wrote the popular book The Romance of Risk (Basic Books, 1997) on adolescent risk-taking behavior, once told me how she unwittingly stepped into a maelstrom of controversy and criticism when she followed her best seller with another book titled The Sex Lives of Teenagers.

Culture Clash: Consequences for Camps

"Emily" is a six-year-old camper in the "Jellyfish" group at an East Coast day camp. She is a new camper this year, coming into a group where about 70 percent of the campers are returning. She comes from an upwardly mobile, well-off family who values education and personal achievement. As a consequence, during the school year, Emily is heavily "programmed." As highly successful professionals, both of her parents have demanding work schedules.

Girls at Camp: Overcoming Relational Aggression

Author's note: The names and certain identifying characteristics of the campers on which this article is based have been changed to protect their privacy. The resulting thoughts, conclusions, and practical suggestions are just the beginning of finding a deeper and more effective understanding of the problem of girls hurting other girls.

July 2009

"The counselors don't really know what's going on," Lori said in all seriousness. "I mean, they're nice and they want to help us, but they don't really know how."

Not Just Another Summer!

As you are working at camp, here are three thoughts to help you make sure you are getting the most out of your experience as a camp counselor.

Memo to Staff: Talking Out of Both Sides of My Mouth

I am standing in the middle of the woodshop of a sailing camp for boys on Cape Cod examining the hunk of wood that is on its way to becoming a fully functional model sailboat when I hear the ruckus outside. I hand the hull over to the boy who owns it and quickly step onto the shop porch just in time to see Jake, one of my ten-year-old campers, with his back to me about to chuck a rock at some kid only a few feet away. "Jake!" I shout at the top of my lungs. Jake, startled by my exclamation, whips around and throws the rock at me.

Staff and Support

Hi Bob!
I am new to camp life, specifically as a new camp director. I have inherited an administrative staff that grew up at camp and spent many years working with the former director. They all have a serious attachment to the former director, and I do not get the respect of my staff. I will be re-interviewing everyone soon, and was wondering if you had some feedback? I have been feeling the need to clean house and get new staff.

Thanks so much!

How Can You Tell When a Camper Is Really Ready for Camp?

Dear Bob,

We are a coed resident camp operating in the mountains. It seems that every summer we have campers who aren’t really ready for the demands of group living in what is the intense social and physical environment that is our camp. We have found that some parents want to send their children because they believe we can help them make the friends they’ve never been able to make at home.

Without being too confrontational and scaring away what might otherwise be great campers, how do we determine whether a child is truly ready for the community living that is our camp?