There are a lot of great kids out there who are fun to be around, great in the cabin, and have no trouble making friends with other campers and their counselors. Unfortunately, not all campers are equal and there will be some that you just don’t know how to handle. Here we have provided you with a list of some different types of campers you may run into and how to deal with them. While these are not all the types, you will come across most of these kids as a counselor. Some weeks you might have all of these campers and other weeks you might not have any. Either way, it’s good to prepare yourself for any type of camper you might encounter as each camper is unique.
We have broken the 9 common “types” of Campers into three different parts to make reading about them all easier for you. The first part consists of: The One Who Refuses To Do Anything, The Stage-5 Clinger a.k.a The Counselor’s Pet, and The Secret Bully. Part Two refers to: The One That Has A Crush On You, The “Shipper”, and The Obsessor. The third and final part talks about: The Dependent, The One That’s Too Cool For Camp and The One That’s Been There Forever.
Enjoy reading Part 1 and Look for Part 2 to come Next Week!
–The One Who Refuses To Do Anything-
You know this one. They are the camper that seems to be always moping around, doesn’t really talk to anyone, and is always sitting out of group activities. No matter how much fun you make the activity look, or how unrealistically happy you pretend to be while doing the activity, they will want to have no part in it. This is really frustrating. Obviously something else is going on, because no kid is willingly miserable for no reason. The first thing you need to do is take them aside. Ask the camper why they came to camp. Did their parent(s) make come? Did they want to make new friends? Did they want to have fun? Ask them if they have a goal that they want to meet by the end of the week. If they don’t have one, make one with them! If you show you are interested in them as person, then they will hopefully be more willing to interact with you. Whatever their goal might be, you have to show them how they are not currently meeting it. Tell them maybe they’d have more fun if they participated in the activities. They’d make more friends if they asked to play with the others once in a while, or talked to their bunkmates before bed. The key to asking these question though is to not sound like you are accusing them. Make sure you just point out what you’ve seen and that you want to help them. Whatever advice you give them, let them know that you back them one hundred percent. Tell them you’ll help them if they struggle during an activity, or help them ask the other kids if they can join their game. Just let them know you’re there for them in whatever struggle they might be dealing with. If their parent(s) made them come, there’s not as much you can do there. Remind them that their parent(s) wanted them to come so that they could have fun and make friends, and that they haven’t been exactly trying. Tell them that getting as much from this experience as possible will be worth a lot more than a week spent being miserable.
There could also be other reasons why they are not participating. They could be homesick (this is extremely likely), not feeling well, or fighting with a friend. Sometimes it takes a lot of digging to get to the root of the problem of someone who doesn’t want to talk, but you can’t give up. Their shyness is a cry for help that you cannot just ignore. Once you get to the root of the problem, it can usually be easily solved or may be able to be solved with some of my upcoming suggestions. If you cannot get to the root of the problem, ask another counselor or a senior staff member if maybe they can try to talk to them. Pay attention to the counselors they will talk to at activities, they might be more willing to talk to them for whatever reason. In the end, just try and do whatever it takes to make sure that they have a fun filled week!
–The Stage 5 Clinger a.ka.The Counselor’s Pet-
This camper follows you everywhere you go. They want to go to all the activities you’re teaching. They want your opinion on everything. They are constantly talking to you about things you couldn’t care less about. If it’s a younger girl, she may even refuse to call you anything but mommy (personal experience talking there.) These types of campers are what you would call a true Counselor’s Pet. Yes, they can make you want to pull your hair out and yell at them to give you just two seconds alone. But think about it from their perspective first. You are years older than they are; you are so smart and you know everything. You are the coolest person in the world. They want you to think they are cool too. They want to be just like you when they grow up. If you snap at them, or yell at them, it would break their little heart. You are their idol, and it seems dumb, but you should take it as a compliment. Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily healthy behavior, but getting angry is definitely not the solution to it. You need to show them all the other cool things in camp they are missing out on when they are talking to only you or going to only your activities. Remind them that camp is a big opportunity to try new things. Ask them if they’ve ever tried archery or gaga ball, or if they’ve ever talked to the camper two bunks away from them. Find out their interests and direct them towards something besides you that they will truly enjoy doing. That’s not to say they won’t come and tell you about it the second it’s over, but, hey, they are branching out and you got a little space. This isn’t a total fix to the problem, but there won’t always be one in this type of situation. Sometimes you just have to see it from their point of view, and draw from your hopefully endless amount of patience (which you have because camp counselors have loads of it). Be honored that they see you as role model!
–The Secret Bully-
Your camper has seemed really low and not themselves lately so you ask them why. They say “so and so” is being mean to them. You immediately approach “so and so” and ask them about the situation, but they plead innocent (and they always will). You have no proof of them actually being mean to anyone, so you decide to give them a warning and look out for it in the future. If this situation repeats itself multiple times with the same antagonist, you have a secret bully in your cabin or activity. Secret bullies are smart and know to strike only when the counselors can’t catch them. It’s not your fault; you can’t be watching one kid all day every day. Sadly our “superhero powers” aren’t good enough to keep eyes on every camper. But you know that it’s happening, it’s upsetting your other campers, and you can’t really do much about it. The best way to start to solve the issue is to have a bully talk. In younger cabins, try to make it fun so that they will be interested in and understand it. Talking to older campers about bullying is a bit harder. The first thing to do is to make it clear in your cabin, or whatever environment you’re in, that bullying will not be tolerated and will be punished. It must also be clear that if you are being bullied or see someone else being bullied, you are expected to tell an adult about it. This way, if you have multiple witnesses, you have grounds to take action against a secret bully. Secondly, you can try and catch on to their strategies. Do they always make snide comments between activities? Do they only do it when a certain camper is present? If you can understand their thinking process, you have a much better chance of catching them. Also, make sure to alert the other counselors in their cabin or at their activities of the behavior. If it gets really out of hand and you still can’t catch them, tell your camp director or another senior staff member. Try your best to catch this secret bully in the act, but if you absolutely can’t, remember that it’s not your fault!