Does Summer Cause You Stress as a Parent?
The reality is that most families don’t see summer as a wide open free time, but rather as something that has to be carefully arranged and choreographed. So, as summer looms, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about how to handle the time kids have off, but parents don’t.
Here is some timely advice and ideas for parents and children from clinical psychologist Loretta L. C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP, Professor of Psychology at Saint Anselm College:
Check in with teachers: If you want to know how best to support your child over the summer or in a particular goal area, it’s helpful to connect with the school before the last 6 weeks. Things will be hectic for the school – and you – at that stage so think ahead for that summer support conversation.
Relieve Your Child’s Stress with Action: Transitions deserve to be honored and kids handle them differently. If your child is feeling sad about leaving a favorite teacher, have them write a thank you letter to the teacher for the work they did. Some teachers get a “lunch bunch,” kids from past years that they occasionally have lunch with the next academic year.
Friends can be missed too. If you can look ahead to your schedule and see some openings, planning a mini-class or friend play date part way through the summer can be fun. Such invitations often result in return invites so your child may get to stay connected even with the school break.
Try New Things: Take stock of what interests your children that they haven’t had a chance to explore. Search for a summer camp or program that might introduce an instrument, horseback riding, robotics, even musical theater. Many programs have scholarships for those who can’t afford full tuition, and those usually go to first come, first serve. Always ask, and look early.
Don’t sweat the downtime. Yes, reading and math are all-year skills, and it’s fine to have your children work on these during breaks, but it doesn’t have to be like school. Boredom leaves space for creative ideas so unstructured and unscheduled time can actually lead your child to locating interests that they do have. Offer times of the day when electronics are off and there is nothing planned. Maybe a clean closet will appear, or maybe that book that keeps getting ignored might actually get picked up.
Take a trip, even if it’s just your back porch. Summer vacation is often a great time for exploring, and you don’t have to go on an overseas journey for memories to be made. Any spot in your community that you have always wondered about? Tried camping in your living room or yard. Take things that normally happen in summer (ice cream trucks, popsicles, bike rides) and ask your kids to build their summer “bucket list.” They will look forward to the simple pleasures of summer no matter how busy regular life might be. And, if you are lucky enough to have a major trip or other experience on the list they will see how big and little pleasures can add up to a lot of warm memories.