The Importance Of Candid Feedback

When communicating with parents, the counselor should come across as trying to be helpful, not only for short-term benefits at camp but also for long-range improvements at school and in other group experiences.

It is rare, indeed, when behavior detrimental to the group at camp is a first-time occurrence; parents will likely have heard of similar situations before from teachers, school administrators, coaches, or other group leaders. Most will appreciate your concern for their son’s or daughter’s future well-being.

6. Show You Know

Finally, all members of a camp staff must understand that, more than anything, parents want assurance that counselors truly know their son or daughter, and have made an effort to understand him or her.

Parents have every right to expect that all camp staff—especially those who spend the most time with the camper—can appreciate the positive contributions he or she brings to the group, acknowledge specific strengths, interests, and attributes, and can explain reasons why he or she may have had a difficult time. This is true no matter how long a camper’s stay might have been.

There is probably no greater responsibility that a camp staff member has—other than ensuring a safe physical and emotional environment for children—than knowing and understanding his or her charges.

This knowledge and understanding must come across clearly in any conversation with parents. Their willingness to listen will be diminished dramatically if they don’t have a strong sense that counselors have connected in some meaningful way with the camper and that he or she is important as an individual.

Putting It All Together

After describing the steps taken by the camper and leader together to correct the behavior, it’s important to note any progress the camper made toward becoming a more positive, inclusive member of the group.

This shows concern not only for what happened at camp but also for the camper’s anticipated growth outside of camp. Obviously, providing specific details without sounding impatient or frustrated will convince the parent that the staff member cares, wants to be helpful, and knows the child well.

Welcome Honesty

The good news that all camp staff members, whether experienced or new, should keep in mind as they anticipate a camp season is that the vast majority of campers are happy, well-adjusted, interesting, cooperative kids who bring much to the group and sincerely want to please.

There is good news about parents, too. Most of them understand their children and want to hear about their camp experience in the most honest terms possible. They will be excited to hear all of the positive things you have to say about their children, and will understand when you speak frankly about problems that may have occurred.

There is little reason to experience needless anxiety over a challenging camper or initiating an honest conversation with his or her parents.

Tom Giggi has served as the Leadership Director at YMCA Camp Belknap in Tuftonboro, N.H., since 1974. During the academic year, he teaches English at New Canaan Country Day School in Connecticut. He has also appeared in several videos for ExpertOnlineTraining.com, usually playing the part of a camp parent.

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  1. From the Counselor
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  4. Children On The Autistic Spectrum
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