For most kids, school is out, and they are looking forward to summer vacation. Many parents, however, dread the extended time away from school. Why? During the school year, families generally have routines and rituals in place. Kids come home from school, do their homework, eat dinner, enjoy some time with friends and fun activities, and then head to bed at their usual bedtime. This sense of structure helps parents and kids plan their time and set expectations.
Now summer is here and unless parents have planned ahead, kids lose that structure. They end up with too much down time and no order or rituals to rely on. Ask most parents and they’ll tell you they have heard, “I’m bored,” within the first few days of vacation!
So, how do you help your child stay engaged and on-track during summer break? Here are a few tips:
Keep a consistent bedtime throughout the summer months. It is especially important for teens to get plenty of sleep but staying up late then sleeping past noon makes it that much harder when schools start again in the fall.
Keep rituals in place, where possible. This may be reading a bedtime story to your child or sharing something interesting everyone learned today over a family dinner.
Assign homework that will interest your child; ask them to help with topics. Take a weekly visit to the library and help your child choose books on topics they enjoy; assign projects to learn about other cultures; get creative with art or have them design a new board game; do science experiments or teach kids to cook; learn to play an instrument watching YouTube (look for second hand or garage sale instruments); change things up and keep it interesting. Pay attention to how your child learns; are they a book learner or do they prefer hands-on experiences? Ask daily what they have learned.
Keep the family active. Sign your kids up for a sports league or encourage them to play with neighborhood friends. Set a goal for everyone in the family…whether it’s counting daily steps on a wearable device or shooting hoops for an hour.
Plan time for kids to spend just hanging out with their friends.
Give kids a journal and have them write their thoughts and feelings. It will give them a head start when the teacher assigns that old favorite, “What I did on my summer vacation!”
Stick with weekly chores. Just because school is out doesn’t mean the kids don’t have to help around the house.
Help kids work on coping skills. Sometimes we adults forget these skills are not innate…we have to teach children ways to cope and reinforce those learnings.
If your child is old enough, have them get a summer job and earn some money. Optionally, it could be an unpaid internship that allows them to learn more about a career they have been considering.
Heading out of town on vacation? Plan simple travel games and take a book, sudoku, or word puzzle for each person.
Don’t forget to schedule down time for everyone. The kids worked hard all school year and deserve to have a little free time. Enjoy your summer…