Here comes camp hiring season! Staff first impressions in 2023

As we near the end of early enrollment and move into open enrollment, it only naturally follows that camp hiring season is just around the corner, too! In a few short weeks, we’ll be welcoming back returning staff members and meeting new faces from near and far along the way. 

The camp counselor experience is a challenging and rewarding one from start to finish – it seems impossible to me that someone could make it through the summer without feeling challenged and changed for the better by summer’s end. 

At Runoia, we live in a child-centered environment – but also know that happy, health staff make for happy, healthy kids. We encourage growth, community, and self discovery in all members of our community and relish in their successes, their tenacity, and hearing all about their experience from day one to departure day. 

2023 staff on their first afternoon in camp!

Our 2023 staff community was a special one – kind, caring, and connected – and here’s what they had to say about their first impressions of Runoia:

It’s beautiful.

Lovely, true, typical American summer camp which is exactly why I came here.

It’s smaller than I thought it would be, but the lake is much bigger.

Awesome people make Runoia awesome.

Back again, all is well.

It’s a happy environment, very welcoming.


I’m going to enjoy the next few months.

A lot of nature, but still so beautiful with the shacks

Everyone is one big friend group and I’ve had a blast being a part of it.

I think it’s a lovely place with a good organization.

Very good first impression, excited to see and learn more.

The hemlocks are so healthy.

Clean, friendly, awesome

A comfortable and magical place

Home faraway from home.

All are very nice and polite


It’s beautiful! It’s a lot smaller than other camps I’ve worked at which I enjoy.

A beautiful place I will make friends and memories at.

I’m excited for what’s to come.


Beautiful place with down to earth people.

It’s a good place to spend my summer.

It’s beautiful and big.

The people are nice.

This is my 3rd year so I really love being here, for me, staying here and spending my summer at Camp Runoia means having fun and an amazing summer.

Friendly and helpful staff.

Beautiful, good food, positive people.

It’s really pretty and all the staff are lovely. I love the lake.

Fantastic, I’m excited to be back.

A fun place.

My favorite place on earth.

Small, tight community, friendly people. Beautiful landscape.


That everyone here is here to support one another and help make the kid’s experience wonderful.

From a counselor’s perspective, versus camper, I would say that it’s a much different, but still very welcoming vibe.

The lake is gorgeous. The environment is so cute.

High-spirited, playful

It’s really beautiful here and all the staff are so lovely.

I’m happy to be here, it’s very pretty and the people are kind.

Positive, welcoming, fun

Savoring the Good in Life: a camp life lesson

As we reach the mid-point of early enrollment for returning campers, it has brought the year-round team joy each and every time we see an application roll through our system to confirm that a camper is returning in 2024. I get an especially great hit of joy when first-time campers from this summer re-enroll and I know that they’ve found ‘the camp’ for them.

The feeling of excitement for a summer that is nine months away and the simultaneous sadness over a summer that is over a month past its expiration is one I’ve known well since I was seven years old. It’s funny that it doesn’t go away even as an adult, and now I feel only more excitement watching our current generation of campers experience it, too.

I recently listened to a podcast episode of NPR’s ‘Hidden Brain‘, a show in which host Shankar Vedantam ‘uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships’ according to the show’s Spotify description.

The episode titled “You 2.0: Make the Good Times Last” caught my eye with the following description: “Sorrows have a way of finding us, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. Joys, on the other hand, are often hard to notice and appreciate. This week, we continue our conversation with psychologist Fred Bryant about the science of savoring, and how to make the most of the good things in our lives.”

In the episode, Dr. Bryant of Loyola University describes his own negative life experience with a back injury and his journey of regretting not savoring the period of his life in which he had a healthy back that supported his favorite hobbies. This experience launched Dr. Bryant into the exploration of savoring the good in life – looking forward to exciting experiences, and the mindfulness to enjoy the littlest things in life as they happen. Now, Dr. Bryant researches the science of savoring and the human hard-wired tendency to notice the negative more than the positive.

It’s unsurprising that this episode had me thinking about camp and how camp life mimics what Fred Bryant observes about the human experience: sometimes we don’t notice the friendships, the moments with nature, the feeling of being safe and at peace in this community in real-time. But we always find ourselves a month or so later with the deep-rooted feeling of ‘campsickness’ and looking forward to our next chance at these experiences.

The good thing, according to Dr. Bryant, is that we can increase our sensitivity to the good – we can learn to savor positive experiences more and more, and we can practice and become better at ‘savoring‘ over time. “The key is to not miss the opportunities to savor when they arise,” shared Fred.

There is no shortage of small moments at camp that we can savor. I challenged myself to think of them and almost savor them retro-actively in gratitude for this summer – here are some moments that came to mind:

  • watching a camper finally stand up and stay up on waterskis on day 3 of a block
  • post-dinner cartwheels at golden hour
  • star-gazing in the apple tree field
  • watching captain candidates congratulate winners and celebrate with each other
  • the uncontrollable laughter of campers while tubing
  • seeing our international staff experience fireflies for the first time

Lucky for us, the tech-free nature of camp frees up our attention to these positive moments that much more. In summer 2024, I’ll be looking out for those moments more than ever.

For now, I’ll sit here like so many of our campers and staff reminiscing and savoring in the past tense.

See you in 2024 –

Love, Aionur

The 2023 Name Story

Among many other Runoia traditions, the name story is one that delights at Cotillion at the close of the summer. Each year, Alex Jackson works hard to incorporate even the trickiest of last names into a fun story to share on that final night.

The name story contains the last names of full season campers, leadership staff and few extra folk whose names added to the fun. Enjoy our 2023 name  story!

The rain in Maine falls mainly on the …..

It Shirley couldn’t rain anymore at Camp Runoia. The summer of 2023 had been so wet with rain falling in sheets even the Glucks had had enough. Howes on earth were the campers supposed to have a fun summer when everywhere was soaking and their toes were Winklering in their Wetzel shoes? They couldn’t just Lallygag around at camp all day Dresdow in their rain jackets and fending off the Colbourn in Worley sweaters. 

The counselors had to come up with a plan and fast. Grace put the Kettell on to make a Wright nice cup of tea so that they could have a planning meeting to Mullen over what to do. It aPearson was never going to come out and there was no chance of a Blauberg sky day. Assembly announcements included ‘the long range forecast looks a little Sussman with it aPerrin to never be clearing up. It’s really going to Martone of the summer for sure.’

While there were plenty of indoor activities like Weavering baskets, and a popular new class where campers could learn to Cook-Wright and Bakewell, the campers really wanted to get on with outdoor fun.  “This is no Goodman I Nadzo what to do with my SV kids – they just can’t Hackett” complained the counselors. “They would rather be at the beach getting Friedman.” There was no Vinarskying going on at the lake so no need to go down to the Marini for gas only the lonesome Martone-Gulling sound rang out over the water.

Mahedy we can Headley into town and all watch that new movie as the old proSchecter in the Lodge is Rohatyn.

Good news was that Adams and  Russells Parent had shopped at Shaws on the way to camp and provided enough contraband for all of senior end to be Mnuchin all summer long. Plenty of jelly Beans, some British Hobbsnobs Bixbys and a big box of Pridhams chocolates.

It was business as usual at riding. The horses were Nagleing and the donkeys were making a Baydin at the barn while Jackson Bradshaw  was working hard doing chores. Campers were Patarining around the ring on horses and the staff were Kleimen over the jumps to demonstrate 2 point position. ‘Don’t Mulry if you lose a stirrup you won’t fall off’ yelled Jacob

A couple of the campers from Pine Island had been hanging out  in the cove.  Ryan O’Malley was talking to  his buddy ‘Urdan don’t be such a Dorsch’ yelling Pine Island cheers. It’s the best I can do as I’m feeling Shieferstein about talking to the Runoia campers I Mrazik a fool of myself. 

It had been another eventful summer at Runoia and as the final Kells rang there were many happy tears and hugs.

To the Runoia Journey: the 2023 Log Dedication by Eliza Schechter

This year’s log dedication to the Runoia journey is written by Eliza Schechter, who began at Runoia ten years ago, as ‘Eliza Mae’ Brown – for just one summer, she thought – and has since found her way back year after year, through Covid, moves, near impossible schedules, and earning her doctorate. 

Who better to share with us about the journey of Runoia?

Flash back to summer 2014, As I anxiously drive the mile down Point Road to a place I never knew existed until that year. That fall, I found an open position as “Head of Archery” and said “Sure, I can do that” even though I had little to no experience in a role like it.  I took a leap of faith – just as many of you did –  to join a summer camp I’ve never visited or had any prior connection to.

That summer was tough. I struggled to fit in and to connect with my campers.  But probably the most difficult task: filling the shoes of the prior, very well loved archery instructor, Ted. It was a roller coaster of a summer, my energy drained by the time I climbed into my little twin bed at the end of circle time. Nonetheless, I found myself wanting to do more and more as the days went on – like a camper waiting to tag up for the new block. It was a summer packed with accomplishments and I can now say I understand the struggle SV goes through when completing their plaques.

That first summer was very rewarding, but it was also tiring and sometimes overwhelming.  I felt comfortable leaving that summer with just my fond memories, and no plan to return.

And yet here I am in 2023, my 10th consecutive summer.

Runoia is the kind of place where you can grow.  You might climb mountains you never knew you could, shoot bullseyes with a bow you’ve never picked up before, ski on water when you just learned about waterskiing 5 minutes before that, you may create art you never knew you had the ability to, or climb the rock wall even when your afraid of heights.  You find new passions in activities you may have never done and you get to progress in those areas every year you return. 

I started going to a summer camp similar to Runoia when I was 7 years old and spent 10 years there as a camper, then CIT, and junior counselor.  Then I was lucky enough to be welcomed into this community for the next 10 years – from head of archery and a 6th shack counselor, to head of target sports and an Ocho counselor, to head of cabin, and now to residential life manager.  Harmony Land campers, junior and senior campers, CITs, staff, cabin counselors, directors, alumni, and everyone in between – this is the Runoia community that makes camp what it is. 


Therefore, I hereby dedicate the 2023 log to the Camp Runoia journey.  It looks different for everyone, but that journey will always be yours.


Singing Builds Community at Camp

As we come toward the end of an incredible 117th consecutive summer, one thing remains true year after year: Runoia loves to sing, and our singing builds community at camp. When COVID came and changed life and camp as we knew it, we weren’t able to sing as a community in the same way we always had.

Luckily, with the continuity of our campers, staff, and leadership – our singing and passing down of camp songs has resurged with so much energy this summer. Campfires are alive with songs new and old, and our oldest campers especially jump at every opportunity to sing more and push their bedtime a little later.

Songs can be heard at meals – singing for birthdays, the melody of ‘save your spoons, save your spoons for dessert…’, at assembly with songs led by staff, CITs, and campers, at campfires as we join together for our most reflective songs, and all of the in between moments – even at CRAO meetings!

Singing is vital to the Runoia community, and not for no reason – singing at camp benefits our community in countless ways –

It’s a chance to be silly and care-free…

a chance to be creative and make your own songs – like our HLC B campers who created ‘The Monkey Song’ from ‘The Beaver Song’ this session, or our 4th shack campers who rewrote a Taylor Swift song for the variety show

a chance to be brave and bold and stand up before a crowd

a chance to connect to camp’s history and sing the songs of generations before us

a way to relax and have fun

an opportunity to learn new things 

and a way to build community.

But don’t just take it from us – singing to build community is a tale as old as time, a thing of historical and cultural significance, and has scientific evidence to back its social benefits.

In Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, writer Jill Suttie shares that “Listening to music and singing together has been shown in several studies to directly impact neuro-chemicals in the brain, many of which play a role in closeness and connection.” She goes on to share that research in community music shows that “endorphins produced in singing can act to draw large groups together quickly.”

We’re glad to know that the science recognizes what Runoia has known as a universal truth for generations. We won’t be halting our singing, dancing, or piano-playing anytime soon here on Great Pond.



Camp Confelicity – feeling happiness for others

During an expert guest JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) training by Shola Jones at OAAARs, Shola asked us to think of five things we hope our campers get out of their experience at Runoia. We turned to a neighbor and shared, and then bounced around the room sharing for the whole group. Shola urged us to not only share the ‘what’ but also the ‘why’ of our choices.

One that came to mind for me was the hope that our campers (and staff) get to experience the feeling of happiness for others and excitement for the accomplishments of their peers. My ‘why’ was that I felt this was an indicator of a healthy, loving, and supportive community – a major part of who we are as a camp at Runoia.

Did you know that there’s a word for exactly this feeling? It’s ‘confelicity’ – meaning ‘delight in someone else’s happiness.’

Part of my job here at Runoia is taking some of our photos and sorting through them for our Camp in Touch portal and for social media. As I’ve filtered through our photos recently, I noticed something pretty amazing: example after example of confelicity at camp strewn across faces of both campers and staff members.

The camp environment and community gives us all a unique opportunity to flex and build our empathy and connection to others and their feelings. We balance celebrating our own successes with the celebration of others’ as we also balance coping with our own disappointments and supporting others during moments of their own. It is a strength to be proud of.

Feeling happiness in the face of others’ achievements and moments ‘in the light’ is not easy – especially when it means that it’s not your own moment to shine. But Runoia campers and staff know that a win for one of us is really a shining moment for our entire community. You need only witness a single ‘Bobos’ sung, an American Archer announcement at assembly, a night of birthday tables, a horse show ribbon ceremony, the welcome committee at the end of the Oak Island Swim, or the moment a camper stands on their skis for the first time to know this is true in the Runoia community.

As we close out this session, we are lucky to have proof of the strength of our community and the happiness for others that is exemplified here on a daily basis. Our returning campers and staff have shown our first-timers the ‘Runoia way’ and we see it carried on from year to year.

Gratitude toward all members of our community as we reflect on our time together in first session and get ready to welcome so many forever friends to be on Monday.



The Impact of Camperships – a guest blog by Dallas White

Dallas with her cabin mates and counselors during her first summer, 2013

One of the most special things about Camp Runoia is the strong scholarship (deemed ‘campership’ in our community) effort made by the CRAO – Camp Runoia Alumni Organization – that makes camp possible for so many campers every summer. What many don’t know about our program, however, is that our hope is to not only open the Runoia gates to those campers once, but to keep it open for years of camp and to bring them into our camp community for the rest of their lives. 

It’s often not a one-summer shot for our campers, but a multi-summer relationship built that often leads to participating in our CIT program and eventually joining our staff. 

One such community member at Runoia is former camper and current staff member Dallas White. Dallas was a long-time Runoia camper – 7 summers total – and is now an incredible advocate and proponent of camp and the CRAO campership program. We’re lucky that Dallas is still connected to the Runoia community and is here to share a piece of her camp and campership experience in this week’s blog: 

Incoming… Summer 2013. I want you to think about where you were, what you were doing, and what was the most significant thing going on for you at the time. For 9-year-old Dallas and her sister Dillan (age 13), thinking about if we were going to be able to attend sleep-away camp for the very first time felt like the end of the world.

We came from a single-parent household and sending both my sister and me to a sleep-away camp seemed nearly impossible. My sister and I had done many a day camp, but from our affluent peers, were constantly being bombarded about how much fun sleep-away is.

Learning how to rig a sailboat? We’d instead learn how to ride the subway system by ourselves first, being from the “big apple” and all. A sleep-away camp was simply a dream for the White-Haynes family.

However, my mom was not the type of person to give up so easily. She was going to make what my sister and I wanted so badly a reality. She got online and found Camp Runoia and immediately reached out to former owner, Pam Cobb, about what potential financial aid could be awarded to us. Elated, Cobb helped out my mom generously with a “campership” from The Betty Cobb Memorial Campership Fund pooled together by the Camp Runoia Alumni Organization (CRAO).

The BCMCF has been helping kids since the 1980s. And smiling from ear to ear, my sister and I’s most memorable summers had just begun. From the barn to the waterfront, we did everything – soaked up every moment.

There’s something truly magical about sleep-away camp that I truly believe every child should get to experience. It’s a feeling that never leaves you with memories that never fade.

-Dallas White, year 8 in 2023

Dallas now with old camp friend Pixie – both are back to work as counselors in 2023!

The impact of camp is unarguable. The impact of providing access to that experience inexplicable. We are so grateful for our incredible CRAO and the impact they’ve made!



Runoia’s Super Staff – camp staff training recap 2023

Would it even be a Runoia opening day without a little rain? Probably not – and what a perfect first opportunity of summer 2023 for our staff to practice our ‘we can deal’ skills learned all throughout camp staff training!

Today was the day we’ve been preparing for for nearly two weeks now – our campers are here! We’re waiting so eagerly for our last few friends to arrive via bus and plane, but camp is already buzzing with reunions and the beginnings of new friendships alike.

Our super staff once again made arrival day a breeze for campers, families, and each other by putting their skills to use. Over the past twelve days, we’ve built a community together and learned so much so quickly.

We kicked off staff training in classic Camp Runoia style – with tie-dyeing, a campfire, s’mores, and lots of singing!

Even after days of tricky weather, our transportation guru Jen Dresdow got all of our staff – from near and far – safely to camp in time. We’re lucky to be back fully with lots of international staff this year from a plethora of countries – our 2023 staff are representing Mexico, Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and Australia!

Evie helps train and support new staff members in ropes

We balanced activity time and full group training sessions, and brought in some experts on important topics like JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) from training group OAAARs, camper and staff mental health, and camper safety in our community.

We even made enough time for a few fun surprises (can you imagine: root beer floats at the waterfront? Star’bunks’ the day before kids arrive? Taking the entire staff tubing the night before opening day?!)

Our staff learned how to teach from “Runoia experts” in their activity areas all week, and got to test out their skills with their peers and with a local school group this past Wednesday. We were lucky enough that amidst all of the rain, we got sunshine and calm waters that day!

Over the past few days, we tied up all loose ends, tidied up the cabins, made welcome signs and chore charts, and savored a few final moments in our community before growing times three today. We welcomed the end of staff training knowing that it was more-so the beginning of something even more wonderful to come. Our staff are so happy to have our campers here, and we can’t wait to share all about the growing we’ll be doing and fun we’ll be having all summer long.

See you then –

Love, Aionur

“Take the Moment and Taste it”: Living in the Moment at Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” by guest, Lilly Grace

Lilly showing off her fan project bracelets!

Lilly Grace, a long-time Runoia camper and staff member who is celebrating her 10th summer at Runoia in 2023, joins us as a guest blogger to share all about living in the moment at T-Swift’s The Eras Tour, and how she got that ability from all of her time at camp:

Since the middle of March, Swifties all around the country (including many people in our Runoia community) have been traveling from near and far to see Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” in stadiums all around the United States. A few weekends ago, I myself had the privilege of being able to see Taylor in concert for her May 21 performance at Gillette Stadium, which was something I had been looking forward to since November when I was lucky enough to secure tickets. Something unique about this tour is that it is Swift’s first tour since the pandemic, a time in which our world became even more reliant on digital technology, particularly live streaming and social media platforms. In preparing for the concert, being able to communicate through social media with fans around the country about tips and tricks was very helpful. Had it not been for social media platforms, I would not have known about essential details regarding the concert such as ideal times to arrive at the stadium or what to wear. Additionally, I never would have learned about the Eras Tour Fan project, which involved making and trading Taylor Swift-themed friendship bracelets inside the stadium with other fans, which was one of my favorite parts about the whole experience. 

Lilly and Amy, long-time Runoia friends, at the Eras Tour together

With that being said, there are always negative parts of social media presence as well. One of my biggest concerns leading up to the concert was that I would be stuck behind one of the hundreds of fans who were livestreaming the entire concert to their social media followers, and obstructing the view of those around them. This may sound like a silly concern to anyone who does not go to concerts often, but as a frequent concertgoer, I can verify that it has become a genuine problem and has impacted my experience at way too many concerts in the past year. While I am the first to admit that I can barely go anywhere without my smartphone, one of my biggest pet peeves is being around people who are not even willing to take a step away from their technology to live in the moment, and I fully expected and prepared myself to experience this at Taylor Swift’s concert. However, I was so pleasantly surprised by how Swifities in my section and throughout the stadium were actually able to put down their phones and enjoy watching the show live. While many people, including me, were still recording their favorite parts of the show so they could rewatch them later, fans seemed less focused on getting the perfect video and were constantly looking up from their devices to actually take in the experience around them. In addition to the show itself, I noticed fans were fully embracing every moment of the experience from the minute we got to the stadium, which is so rare at concerts nowadays. Between supporting the opening acts, trading friendship bracelets, and bonding over their equally difficult experiences getting tickets, most fans were clearly making an active effort to stay off of their phones, live in the moment, and make genuine connections with those around them. As I looked around my section of the stadium during the show, my heart filled as I realized that the number of fans cheering, singing their hearts out, dancing along to the music and fully embracing each moment of the 3 ½ hour show clearly outnumbered the fans who were focused on recording every song. In this sense, this experience in Gillette Stadium reminded me a lot of Camp Runoia, a place where nearly every memory I have made for the past 10 years has been, and will continue to be, without the assistance of video footage.

 Throughout the summer at camp, there are always so many fun moments that we want to capture and remember forever, from the annual relay race through all of camp on the Fourth of July, to the anticipation of watching as a random staff member reveals the final scores for the B’s and E’s competition on the last night of camp. If we had our phones available, we would probably want to capture as many of these unforgettable moments as possible. However, being able to form memories through experience is not only a life long skill that campers build on at camp, but something that I value about the camp experience every year. There are very few places now, aside from summer camps, where kids and adults alike can break free from the burden of technology and just embrace living in the moment with those around you. So, experiencing that unique sense of community outside of camp at a concert, where the unifying factor was not trying to get the perfect video for social media but rather radiating a collective sense of love and appreciation for an incredibly talented artist, was so special and an experience I will never forget. 

As we get closer to opening day at camp, I am already getting so excited and counting down the days until I get to hear from all of the Runoia Swifties about their eras tour adventures, not through videos and pictures but rather through their own recollection of unforgettable memories!


the best coincidence – Lilly and Amy ran into two other Runoia gals – Izzy and Vanessa!

Sharing from Dr. Tracy Brenner and MCE – Summer Success Strategy: Managing Your Child’s Pre-Camp Jitters

This week, we are sharing a blog from Dr. Tracy Brenner, “The Camp Counselor,” psychologist and Maine Camp alumna camper/counselor as posted by Maine Camp Experience.

The summer is creeping closer and nerves may be on the rise. Camp prep has begun! Your inboxes are full of forms to fill out, including medical and vaccination history. But, just as important as those tetanus and measles shots are for the health of our children, so is the emotional vaccination you can give your child now so they will be better prepared to handle whatever emotions roll their way during the summer.

In my previous post I provided a four-step process for managing your own emotional reactions to those big feelings that emerge before, during and after the summer. (Remember: name your feelings, provide compassion, take a deep breath and give yourself a pep talk (click for a refresher). I also stressed the importance of regulating your own emotions in order to most effectively help your children with their own feelings. In today’s blog, I will provide tips and scripts so that you can help your child be ready to handle any emotions that come their way.

What is emotional vaccination?

Just as we use medicine to vaccinate our children to build physical antibodies, we use emotional vaccination to arm our children with emotional antibodies to prepare their minds and bodies to handle big feelings. The goal is not to prevent challenging feelings but to prepare our children to experience and tolerate a full range of emotions.

My kid doesn’t seem nervous; why vaccinate?

Sometimes parents are hesitant to initiate conversations about potential challenges if their child is not actually expressing them spontaneously. For example, a parent might say, “he’s not talking about being homesick, I don’t want to make him worried if he’s not.” Well, that’s not how feelings work. It’s possible that your child might become emotional during this conversation in a way you haven’t seen yet, but this is actually a good thing. Once they share their feelings, you have the chance to help your child cope. While it may have taken your prompt to spark emotion, it doesn’t mean the feelings weren’t always there or that they wouldn’t come at camp. In other words, you are not responsible for creating those feelings, just because you introduced the topic. If homesickness isn’t a problem for your child, then it’s not a problem for your child. Avoiding exploring a feeling doesn’t prevent the feeling from happening or cover up its existence.

How do we emotionally vaccinate our kids?

Great news: there’s no shot – just a boost of resilience. Emotional vaccination happens when parents (who remain calm) engage with their children to talk through, anticipate and plan for any feelings that might arise. My preference is to start the process of vaccination in a calm moment, not at bedtime and not in the heat of a meltdown. Just as you are advised not to receive a Covid vaccine when you have an active case of Covid, you cannot strengthen your emotional immune system when it is already flooded with feelings. The car can be a great place to spark discussion: You have a captive audience; a contained space; and sometimes it’s easier to explore feelings without the intensity of eye contact.

Lines for starting the conversation:

If your child has never mentioned any concerns about camp say:

“I know that you are super excited about camp, I’m so excited for you too! We haven’t yet talked about any fears or worries you might have about the summer. What are some things on your mind?”


If your child (like mine) has been very vocal about his concerns, start like this:

“I know you’ve mentioned being nervous about missing home this summer, let’s talk more about it.”

Or (for a returning camper)

“I know there were some parts of camp last summer that were challenging. Let’s talk more about what that felt like”

Whatever your child identifies as their worry, respond with the favorite three little words of a psychologist: “tell me more.” Remain open and help your child expand and explore all of his or her thoughts and feelings. Resist the urge to fix!

Dos and Donts 

Do: Provide empathy, support and validation. Say things like: “I hear what you’re saying.” “I get it.” “I remember feeling that way too when I was your age.” “Doing something new is hard.” “Transitions are hard.”  “Leaving home for the first time feels scary.”

Dont: Ignore the emotion by going straight to problem solving. Avoid lines like: “oh you’re nervous about having friends in your bunk, I’ll just call the director and make sure you’re with your best friend.”

Do: Let your child know that you believe in him or her:  “It’s okay to miss me. You can do hard things. I believe in you.”

Dont: Offer rescue, like: “if it’s miserable you can come home.” The decision for a child to leave camp early is a rare occurrence and should be made with a team approach, including the camp director’s involvement.

Dont: get entangled in a discussion of whether or not your child is going to camp.

Instead: Say something like:

“I totally get that this is sparking really big feelings. This conversation isn’t about whether or not you’re going to camp, it’s about learning to anticipate and handle uncomfortable, big feelings. So for this conversation, can we take the decision off the table?”

Go deeper

Wonder with your child what, when, and where these feelings might occur, what it might feel like in their body, and how they might express their emotion. This is really the work of vaccination: You prepare your child in advance for the feelings, so that when they are in the situation, their minds and bodies are better prepared to handle it.

Say: “I hear you’re worried about missing us. Tell me more.” “When do you think that feeling might hit you most?” (If your child doesn’t offer ideas, suggest that night time, early morning or other “downtimes” are usually more common times when we miss home rather than when we are busy in a soccer game.) Ask: “When you’re sad, what might your body feel like and what might your body do?’

Create a coping tool kit

Introduce some coping skills that your child can practice now and use at camp. In my consultations with kids and parents, we make an actual “emotional toolbox” filled with strategies or quotes. Teach the “Notice/Name, Compassion, Deep Breath, Pep Talk” strategy I suggested parents use in my last blog. Here are a few more examples of what can be in a tool kit:

  1. Slips of paper with lines like: “this feels hard because it is hard” / “it’s okay to feel sad and miss my parents, I’m away from home, of course I miss them.” / “take a deep breath.”
  2. Reminders of context cues: “downtime is harder than active time.”
  3. A support system flow chart: list all of the supportive people at camp they can go to for help, a hug, etc.
  4. Distraction techniques (because sometimes we just need to get out of our heads). List things like: reading a book, listening to music, playing with friends, throw yourself into an activity.

Parents, try using emotional vaccination in the months ahead.  Feel free to reach out for further consultation or questions. and and @drtracybrenner on instagram

Dr. Tracy Brenner continues to partner with Maine Camp Experience and share her expertise through their website.