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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

13 Things Your Kid’s Camp Counselor Won’t Tell You

Sending the kids off to camp this summer? We granted anonymity to counselors from camps in Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, and Wisconsin so they'd share some of the secrets of their profession.

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Children playing tug of war at the parkRobert Kneschke/Shutterstock

Camp becomes a home away from home

For the first week, the cries of the homesick are almost unbearable. After that: “Mom? Who’s Mom?”

2 / 13
Group of Diverse Kids BLowing Bubbles Together at the

Kids come out of their shells

Your kid is a lot less shy and a lot more competent than you think. Camp counselors aren’t the only ones who see a different side of your kid than you do—learn the things your child’s teacher knows about her that you don’t.

3 / 13
Happy family at a lake having fun and splashing water in summerRobert Kneschke/Shutterstock

Cleanliness is not a priority

Your son will shun clothing and may well go without showering for weeks. “It’s like a frat you join when you’re ten,” says one counselor.

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Labeling your kid’s stuff is just a waste of time

Don’t bother with the labels—everything’s going to get hopelessly mixed up anyway.

5 / 13
Two little sisters walking up stairs in summer park on beautiful sunny dayMNStudio/Shutterstock

What you don’t know won’t hurt you

As long as he or she is eventually found, we’re not going to tell you about all the times we had to call a search-and-rescue for your child. These are the secrets your kid’s babysitter won’t tell you.

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girl is reading a book under a blanket with a flashlight in a dark room at nightVadiar/Shutterstock

We’re not always on our best behavior

Some of us are hung over every morning and rigidly enforce afternoon naptime, not because the kids need the rest, but because our heads hurt.

7 / 13

Camp is educational… in more ways than one

Even if it’s not a coed camp, your teen is going to learn more about the opposite sex (accurate or not) than you want to know. These are the things your teenager wishes you knew.

8 / 13
Father and son roast marshmallow candies on the campfire in forest. Spring or autumn camping Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock

We’re not the lunch police

If they want to eat peanut butter and jelly for weeks in a row, there’s really nothing we can do about it. These are the delicious camping meals you’ll want to make all summer.

9 / 13
Chocolate bar in foil on gray backgroundAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

We bend our own rules

We confiscate the “illegal” candy you send and eat it ourselves. For the kid’s own good, of course.

10 / 13
young boys jumping into the lake.PanyaStudio/Shutterstock

We push kids out of their comfort zones

Your kids will be plunged into icy water, submitted to exotic “tortures,” and scared witless countless times—just because we think it’s funny. Oh, and they’ll love it. Learn the pool and beach safety secrets lifeguards wish you knew.

11 / 13
little boy climbing a rock wall indoor. Concept of sport life.altanaka/Shutterstock

We make a difference

According to the American Camp Association, the typical camper return rate is about 60 percent, and 92 percent of campers surveyed say the people at camp “helped me feel good about myself.”

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Prepare to hear about camp nonstop

For weeks after coming home, your child is going to speak in incomprehensible camp slang and pine for people named Lunchmeat, Fuzzy, and Ratboy.

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Happy tourist family on a journey hike. mother and child fry sausages on bonfire near the tentEvgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock

We love what we do

We actually do this because we love your kids—and we’ll probably do it again next year. (According to the ACA, the average return rate for staff is 40 to 60 percent.) Camp is worlds more fun as a counselor than it is as a camper. Next, check out these bizarre summer camps that are 100 percent real.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Adam Bluestein
Adam Bluestein writes about people and companies at the forefront of innovation in business and technology, health care, life sciences, sustainability, food, and the arts. His works have appeared in Reader's Digest, Fast Company, Inc., Men's Journal, and Proto, among other publications.