Heading to camp is the highlight of the summer for many children and adolescents. But surprisingly, it isn’t necessarily for the reason that first springs to mind (all the fun activities). In reality, young people want to come to camp for the connections they make with each other and their camp counselors. Anthony P. Orlich explains that these professionals become mentors, friends, and teachers to the children for camp’s duration, having a profound impact on all attendees.
Young people are like sponges, soaking up everything in their surroundings. From peer interactions to the activities to the behavior of the counselors, children absorb every bit of it, making it ultra-important for workers to adopt the right tactics to ensure they change campers’ lives in nothing but positive ways.
Positive Change Starts with The Counselors
Learning happens on two wholly different (yet equally important) levels — activity (basic) skills and life (advanced) skills. The former is typically recognized by the children. For instance, they’ll learn how to perform the backstroke or make a necklace. But the latter is less noticeable, encompassing essentials like compassion, teamwork, reason, patience, self-reliance, and confidence. It’s here that camp counselors can truly come into their own and create exceptional change.
Becoming a Role Model for Campers
Remember — children are akin to sponges. So, a pleasant summer experience can be garnered by surrounding campers with positive influences. Naturally, this requires counselors to act as a role model. Maybe unbeknownst to these workers, campers will look up to them and want to follow in their footsteps (sometimes literally). Thus, counselors should always be conscious of what they’re doing and saying.
This includes how they respond during disagreements. Camp workers should mediate conflict, encouraging communication and comprise. This can be tricky to learn, but it’s an essential skill when working with children who will model seen behavior.
Crafting a Safe Space for Young People to Be Themselves
Showing support, fairness, and appreciation to all campers creates a safe space for them to shine and be unapologetically themselves. The world can be a judgmental place, but it’s well-documented that children who are encouraged to let their true selves out are better equipped to deal with curveballs life may throw at them.
The physical location of the camp certainly helps to craft this safe atmosphere. However, it’s much more to do with the counselors and how they interact with their colleagues and attendees.
Using Positive Reinforcement for Goal-Achieving
The above can be achieved through positively reinforcing behaviors. The key is to ensure fewer negative interactions with the campers so they have a wholly fulfilling summer and beyond. Affirmative techniques to name and bring attention to desirable actions will prove more beneficial in the long run than reinforcing unwanted behaviors.
Camp Counselors: They’re Forming the Next Generation
By implementing the above strategies and generally acting with respect and integrity, camp counselors have a life-long impact on the children who will never forget them.