The Camper-Counselor Bond

By Green River Preserve

The bond between camper and counselor is an essential part of any camp experience. While experiences at camp are extraordinarily important, perhaps more so are the people that one encounters; especially camp counselors. Despite—more likely than not—being absolute strangers to their campers on day one, the counselor is charged with keeping the camper safe both physically and emotionally. On top of that, they must ensure that the camper has fun while following all of the rules. This job is only possible if the counselor constantly works at maintaining a beneficial bond with their campers.

As a counselor, I feel that it is often easy to maintain authority. The camper generally comes in with the understanding that you are their leader and are in charge of them. However, convincing that same child that you are also on their side poses a bit of a challenge. It is essential that the camper know that you care about him. It simply allows for the camper to have a more fruitful experience. Camp provides an environment not only for fun, but also for personal enrichment; the counselor can contribute to both of these areas by being a positive role model and just being a source of entertainment for the campers. Children will not look up to you simply because you tell them what to do. Without a sensitive relationship, they will see no reason to venerate you and emulate the positive qualities that you wish to pass onto them. The camper also needs to feel safe in order to have fun. If they don’t feel like they can talk to you whenever about their problems or come to you if they feel sick, they are not going to have as good of a time at summer camp.

Bonding is a very loose term. Anything from having a conversation, to playing games or joking around can be a form of bonding. It is, however, a kind of balancing act. The camper has to accept you both as a friend and an authority figure. If you are never serious, they will never take you seriously. If you are always serious, they won’t have fun, which is equally as important. On closing day, when campers hop into the car and begin gushing about their experiences, you’ll find the majority of their stories to center around something funny a counselor did on Camp Out or what an awesome song a counselor played around the fire. The counselor becomes a manifestation of the camper’s stay at camp and therefore the strength of a bond is a integral to a camper’s experience.

-Bayne, Hemlock Hut 1 Counselor