Summer is here for some of us, and almost here for the rest! The end of the school year can be such a relief, but can also be a time of dread as we look towards weeks of free time with the kids. From my years working with families in my private practice, here are three of the biggest challenges and how to address them:
Most kids go from a structured school setting to a pretty loosely scheduled time with their families or a totally different schedule at a camp or summer program. Some kids don’t mind the transition at all, some welcome the novelty, and for some it throws them completely off their game!
If your kid is one of the first two, breathe a huge sigh of relief, if they are in the third category then this paragraph is for you.
It can be super helpful to explain the changes in schedule ahead of time, this allows your child the time to adjust to their new schedule. Also, and give your kids choices and agency where appropriate, for example, “we have a little extra time in the mornings now, would you rather shower in the mornings or at night?”. This allows them to feel in control of a few things in their universe and provide some stability while things feel a little out of control.
If your family isn’t having a busy summer, creating structure can be helpful to transition them out of school. Work with your kiddos to set time for relaxing, free play, activities you all like, meals, and errands. This should provide some loose (or tight depending on your family style) guidance and make transitions during the day a bit easier.
Kids get a lot of physical and social time during the school day. It can be difficult to lose this time when at home, and although your kids may not want to engage in these activities, their bodies may need to. Find some ways to help your kids burn off some energy whether it’s conventional; like walking the dog, going to park, or swimming, or a little more creative, like having a dance party, making a fashion show or dog show, creating an obstacle course or scavenger hunt. The goal is to get the body moving and discharge the energy that can be built up by being sedentary.
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment:
Finally, and I think this may be most important, set realistic expectations. We all want summer to be fun, we all want our kids to behave, and we all want them to enjoy the activities we have planned or at least not whine through them! As lovely as this sounds, it isn’t realistic and when we set this expectation we end up letting ourselves down and then taking it out on our kids. Look at your activities for the day and be realistic about the pros and cons, ups and downs, benefits and pitfalls. Be prepared for complaining, whining, and lack of gratitude. These are great learning opportunities for us and for our children, they are great conversation starters (when everyone is calm). Know that it won’t all be perfect, but that is part of the journey.
Have a Safe and Happy Summer!
Abby Withee is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Redondo Beach. With a focus on mindful practices, Abby works with children, adolescents, adults, and families to address a variety of diagnoses and presenting issues. For more resources, check out her blog!