Summer Lovin’: 3 Easy Ways To Avoid The Craze Of The Summer Break For Kids & Teens
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
For most parents, summer means running around crazy thinking what to do with their children now that school is over. We love our children, but… Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or a working professional, the summer can be the most dreaded season of the year. As a family therapist, I often hear parents asking themselves:
How am I going to keep my kids occupied?
Why is it that my kids seem to misbehave the most over the summer?
How can I avoid the all the chaos?
When is school going to start again?
Let’s start by acknowledging that children struggle with change. Structure is necessary for a child to thrive. Did you ever wonder why some TV shows only air one episode a week and the rest of the week they air the same show over and over? It’s because children enjoy learning the songs to sing along. As such, the main hurdle of the summer is that a child is placed outside of the comfort of routine. Your child spent 10 months with the same schedule, a predictable one. As the end of the school year arrives, that routine begins to fade and many parents notice that their children’s behavior worsens.
So here is the first tip to avoid the craze of summer:
Help your child understand the changes of transitioning from the school year to the summer break. Having simple, repetitive conversations about the change can be helpful. Conversations such as: “School is over, so let’s talk about how your routine will be different.” Followed by discussing which specific changes will take place, such as wake-up times, clothing, bed times, and daily activities are helpful topics to consider. Change causes anxiety to most of us, so for a child, this is magnified as even small changes can be difficult for them to cope with, even if they are going to have exciting activities and time off from “sucky” school.
This brings me to my second tip:
Create a new weekly schedule with your child to put up in a visible place. After discussing the summer changes, help your child create a new weekly schedule that will include detailed time blocks for each activity of the day a put it up in a place that is to their eye level and can access easily. And, be sure to add some “free play” and down time to their schedule, after all is it is a summer vacation and you want your child(ren) to have fun, right? This summer schedule can become a point of reference to follow on daily basis, such as telling your child to review the next day’s calendar to prepare for the following day the evening before.
So you might be asking yourself at this point, what do I put on this summer calendar… Here is where identifying the activities that will replace time at school comes into play. So for tip number 3, consider the following:
Select at least two summer activities for your child that are within your budget. Whether your budget allows for a summer camp or a few hour long classes, selecting activities which your child is interested in will give you leverage in getting your child motivated to adapt to the new summer schedule. You might be wondering why at least two options. Options are a great tool to empower your child by making a decisions, which reduces the power struggle. By presenting your child with two options, your child will have to make the choice, and as a result own the decision. This usually increases cooperation. With older children, tasking them with the responsibility to search for the options may be another way to motivate them and reduce arguments. For this age group, giving them guidelines to follow is necessary so that they look for activities within the budget, times, and area that works for you as the parent.
For most working parents, summer camps are the primary option available for a structured activity that will occupy them throughout the day. Local family centers, schools, and youth centers offer great options.
For stay-at-home parents, a combination of child and parent-child activities can be a fun, bonding and a less costly summer experience.
Here are a few tips for each age group:
Infants and Toddlers: There are several mommy and me activities offered at libraries and “baby gyms.” There are also ways to organize free play dates by joining local mom groups, which can be found through social media and websites that specialize in connecting people with similar interests. You can also create your own groups!
Children ages 5 through 11: Organizing play dates with their current school friends and neighborhood friends can be take up a bulk of the weekly schedule. Adding a weekly structured activity, whether it is half-a-day camp or a one-hour structured activity selected based on your child’s interests can be a great way to keep your child motivated in learning about a sport, crafts, or hobby. There are also free activities for this age group in local libraries. For parent-child activities, these can include arts and crafts, puzzles, building a large toy (such as a doll house, a legos set, or a tree house), or reading a “long” book a few times a week with the goal of finishing it by the end of the summer.
Children ages 12 and up: The options appear to become scarce. Some attribute this to this age group’s lack of interest in summer activities because they want to spend time with their close friends. Keep in mind; Teens also need structure during the summer to avoid boredom. Boredom can result in getting involved in high risk behaviors, such as hanging out with the wrong crowd, drugs, and promiscuity. That's why creating a “summer schedule" for teens is very important, too. Discuss with your teen structured activities that might be of his or her interest. This can be a teen summer camp, or a combination of local activities, and then adding specific times to spend with friends. Also, the summer can bring the possibility to have the time to create an engaging and different parent-teen activity. Whether this means a road trip, or learning how to drive, generating special summer memories can be a way to enhance your relationship with your teen.
Preparing yourself and your child for the summer changes by talking, researching options, and collaborating with your child or teen can give you the head-start to a stress-free summer.
To Your Family Success!
Your Therapy Friend,
Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Relationships & Parenting Expert. She offers individual, couples, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationships. Her private practice is located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and in Business Administration. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens, an evidenced based program. She is also a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She is a passionately committed therapist, who thoroughly takes pride and joy from her job. She enjoys working with a culturally diverse population and is bilingual in Spanish and English. She is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and an active volunteer of the Broward Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves her family, which consists of her husband, daughter, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining. Read more about her at: www.infinitetherapeuticservices.com and follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/infinitetherapy/