Cathi Cohen, LCSW
Remember when you were a child and you couldn’t wait for school to end and the long days of summer to begin? I would bet that you never wondered what school ending meant for your parents. As a kid, that was not a concern of yours. Now that you are a parent yourself, summer probably has a whole new meaning. While it can mean more flexibility and less dragging people out of bed at the crack of dawn, summer poses its own unique challenges in the form of large blocks of unstructured time for your children. Summer days can lead to the dreaded, “I’m bored.” or “I just want to play Xbox.”
How can you make the most out of these summer months?
First thing, take a deep breath. You are at the end of another academic year with your child. You need time to reflect on this accomplishment, both for your child and for you. The stress and pressure for children to excel in school, both socially and academically can be enormous. Your child has succeeded in moving on to another school year. Congratulations to you both!
In terms of the summer, have you thought about what you’d like for it to look like? Have you and your child sat down to discuss how each of you views the summer? Take some time to talk with your child about summer goals. Build in activities that meet your child’s goals as well as your own. Remember to schedule in time to be together and times to be apart. This may be a good time to set parameters around how much “screen time” will be allowed daily as well as how much reading time is expected.
If you are not sure where to begin with making the plans for your child for the summer, here are some practical suggestions for your family to create a “Summer Survival Tool Kit”.
- Plan play dates. Put them on the calendar so your child can look forward to them.
- Generate a list of outdoor activities that you and your child enjoy. They can be things like bike riding, swimming, going to a playground, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, playing in a sprinkler or even making a lemonade stand. Agree on some activities s/he can do alone and ones that you can do with him/her.
- Make a list of indoor activities in case of rain. Create a box filled with art supplies, paint, drawing paper, clay, and Play Doh. Tell spooky stories, make a fort with pillows, put on a play and videotape it, create a summer picture album with your child.
- Consider a day camp for part of the summer.
- Take a few outings a week which are both educational and inexpensive like visiting museums or children’s festivals, battlefields or other historic places.
- Try to limit electronics and create opportunities for your child to earn time to play with them by doing chores or first playing outdoors.
By spending just a little time planning for the summer months, you will feel less anxious and more able to share in your child’s end-of-school joy.
Who knows? You may even look forward to it!