Campfire Notes

What to Say to a Nervous Camper

What to Say to a Nervous Camper

This post is for those of you who have decided that your child is going to camp, and especially for those of you who had a previously excited camper who is now having last-minute camp anxiety.   Here are some messages you can give prior to dropping your camper at the bus or at camp.  Pick and choose, and of course use your own words, but acknowledge your child’s feelings and empathize with them while holding firm in your confidence in their ability to succeed and your belief that camp will be good for them.

One thing I’ve learned after close to three decades at camp is that the same kids who are anxious and hesitant about going to camp when they’re nine or ten will still be anxious when they’re 13.  And they may not be interested in going away to college when they’re 18, either.   So, as a parent, you need to decide how to approach your child’s separation anxiety, as well as your own.  You can avoid it and not send them to camp and hope that they develop independence in other ways, which is definitely possible.  Or, you can bite the bullet, give them these positive messages, and send them off to camp with a smile, knowing that it may be hard for them, but they will grow from the experience.

Words to say

“It may seem like a long way off, but in a few years, you’ll be ready for college.  I want you to feel confident in your ability to live away from me, so that you can choose any school you like, even if it’s far away from home.  Think of camp like your practice time for when you’re older and ready to move away for school or a job.  You’ll get better at being independent by starting now, when you’re young, with short spurts of time away.  Some kids aren’t doing well when they start college because they don’t have any experience being away from home.  I want you to feel great when you go to college, because you’ll know that you’ve already been successful with short camp stays.”

“You may feel homesick, and that’s okay.  A lot of kids feel that way. That just means that you love us and you love home.   I feel homesick when I’m on trips, too.  Missing home is part of life.  But I know you can still have fun at camp, even if you feel sad sometimes.”

“There are adults at camp (counselors, directors) who are there to take care of you and help you with anything you need.  They can help with things you normally come to me about.  Let them know if you are feeling sad, and they can help you.  They have lots of experience working with kids who are away from home for the first time.”

“Many good things in life aren’t easy at first.  Learning a new sport or trying something new is really hard.   Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone to discover something you really love.  If you never go through anything hard, you’re going to miss out on some great experiences.  The first few days of camp may be hard, and that’s okay.  I know you’ll work through it and figure out what makes you feel better.  I have confidence in you, and I am so proud of you for going to camp and trying this new adventure!”

“Every day comes with its good and bad parts.  When you’re at camp, I want you to write me letters and tell me all of the stuff that you’re doing and feeling.  If you feel homesick at rest time, tell me about it, and also tell me what you did to help yourself.  Did you talk to your counselor?  Keep yourself busy playing cards with friends?  Write me a letter?  I also want you to share good stuff.  Did you get your favorite food for lunch?  Try rock climbing?  Get up on a knee board?  I want to hear both the good and bad things about camp in your letters.”

“I am so excited that you get to go to camp this year.  I know it’s going to be such a great experience for you and that you are ready for this.”

“Even if you’re a little homesick for the whole time you’re at camp, you’re going to feel so much better about the experience if you stick it out and make the best of it.  Most kids feel better after a few days of getting settled in and adjusted, and I know you’ll feel great once you let yourself relax and just start enjoying all the fun things at camp.  I’m not going to pick you up early, no matter what, because I know you will feel really proud of yourself for making it through camp, even if you have some hard days.”

Read the original post from which these quotes are excerpted, Messages for an Anxious Camper, at Sunshine Parenting.

Watch a video

More Resources

10 Messages for a Homesick Camper

First-Year Families

Homesick and Happy

When Your Camper Doesn’t Want to go Back to Camp

How to Prepare for Overnight Summer Camp (Video or Podcast)

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Remembering Hope “Fiji” Mirano

Remembering Hope “Fiji” Mirano

Hope “Fiji” Mirano Chen

We are so sad to let our GAC family know that our longtime, beloved staff member (2000-2008), Hope “Fiji” Mirano Chen, lost her 3 1/2 year battle with cancer earlier this week. She leaves behind her husband Mike, her daughter Olivia, and a large a loving extended family – including many current and former GAC staff members.

The Chen Family

Hope’s sister, Anna Mirano Macalino writes:

On Wednesday May 1, 2019, my sister and best friend, Hope Mirano Chen, died after a courageous and inspiring 3.5 year battle with a very aggressive form of AML due to complications resulting from her most recent treatment. On her last days, she was surrounded by her loved ones and is finally resting in peace and no longer in pain. The Mirano and Chen families would like to thank everyone for all of the love and support throughout this journey. The outpouring of support and prayers, blood and platelet donations, gifts for and time with Olivia, traveling across the globe to visit, weekly visits, slumber parties, texts, facetime, calls…the list is endless. We could never list all of you, but please know that we are eternally grateful to each and every one of you. Hope and our families didn’t have just a village, we truly had the world helping us fight…friends, family and the kindness of many many strangers. Hope left us knowing she was truly loved. We would especially like to thank Dr Stein and the City of Hope for their care and becoming part of our family throughout this process. Gary Ragat your donation gave Hope hope twice, it meant so much to her. And to Cheryl Oliver-Cervantes for never leaving our side and helping us navigate through every single emotional and administrative step of Hope’s last days. We would like to compile stories of your memories of Hope for her daughter, Olivia. Through all of you we will keep Hope’s memory alive in Olivia. Please post on Hope’s timeline any thoughts and we will ensure that your messages are passed along to Olivia and the family. Thank you all again for being with us on this journey.

We have received so much love and an outpouring of people that want to help. Your kindness at this time is genuinely appreciated. For those asking about donations, Hope wanted to help find a cure for blood cancer. Donations can be made in Hope’s name to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In order to send a tribute gift, please donate directly at As you personalize your gift, please put Hope Mirano Chen under the Personalize Your Donation section and Mike and the family will be notified of your generosity.

A few of the words shared about “Fiji” from GAC staff include:

“Heaven gained an angel far too soon. Hope, I will forever cherish our memories on and off the mountain from our GAC years. Thank you for being you and such an inspiration to many. Mike, Olivia, family and all who are walking with heavy hearts today. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.”
-Abbey “Wild Violet” Butcher

“My beautiful friend! I cannot put into words all the memories we have shared over the past 16 years! From camp sleepovers in “The Hilton” to dressing up in the most ridiculous costumes for GAC dances to weddings to welcoming our children together! I have so many cherished memories to hang on to! Your legacy lives on in your beautiful O! To Mike and Anna and all your family and friends who are feeling this pain, we love you and miss you everyday! I pray that your family finds peace during this hard time. Until we meet again and run a LOT of “errands” together we LOVE YOU Fiji Feeeeej!
-Renee “Zippy” Say

Hope, This breaks my heart. I love you sweet lady.
-Aaron “Elf” Kessler

We love you, Fiji, and will always cherish memories of your cheerful spirit, your warmth, and your love for others. You will be missed dearly.


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