It’s hard to believe that as of this month, most students will have completed another school year. Some look forward to the long stretch without homework and school-related responsibilities with excitement. Others feel apprehensive about not seeing their pals every day, are sorry to say goodbye to a special teacher and will miss the routine that a school day provides. As parents, we too often look towards the summer holidays with mixed emotions – we’re glad to be free of school lunch preparation first thing every morning, figuring out car pool schedules and extra-curricular activities for a couple of months.
However, we often worry about how we’ll fill so much time off school – especially if we’re working (out of the house) parents. With this in mind, I have prepared 10 tips towards helping to keep your kids out of trouble and you from going crazy over the summer holidays.
Maintain some routine. Children (and adults) thrive on predictability. Although the summer months need not be nearly as regimented as those during the school year, it’s reassuring to know that there is a certain amount of predictability and routine in one’s schedule. Without it, we forget which day of the week it is and often get very little accomplished. Think of how less productive we are on days that we sleep in late, don’t eat breakfast until lunchtime and have no deadlines to meet that day. I’m not saying that every day should be as productive as the last, but that some productivity during the summer months is not a bad thing.
Plan ahead. Our family lives by our calendars. Children as young as the age of eight, or thereabouts, can benefit from learning how to plan for the weeks or months ahead with the aid of a calendar that shows the month at a glance. At around this time of year, as the school year has come to an end, my husband, our children and I sit together with our respective calendars (our youngest feels very grown up as she writes events onto her calendar) so that we can all be on the same page so to speak. This also gives us an opportunity to look at who is doing what and when and helps us figure out which days or weeks work best for us to spend time as a family. In August, we will reconnect with our calendars to explore our schedules for September (and beyond) when our children, in particular, keep us hopping with all of their extra-curricular activities.
Balance is important. This ties in somewhat with the previous point. As you think of the summer months ahead, consider that each of you will benefit from time alone, time with friends and time as a family. Consider too that while some time to catch up on sleep and vegetate in front of the television or computer is a good thing, more than two weeks (at the most) of idle time does not emulate real life.
I encourage my children to take some time for themselves after school ends, then to get back into something more productive after that period of rejuvenation. For a younger child, day or overnight camp is a perfect level of summer holiday productivity. For an older child, a position as a camp counsellor or working at an office or store – even part-time – would be good use of their time. These planned activities need not be for the entire summer holidays. Balance productive time with leisure time spent with family, friends and relaxing on one’s own.
Focus on something new. Even though I don’t advocate many extra-curricular activities during the summer holidays, your child may benefit from focussing on something that he or she didn’t have time for during the school year – learning to play guitar or learning a new language, for example; or maybe participating in soccer or once-a-week swim lessons. The same is true for you. Not having to drive your children to so many different programs may free you up to try something new, too.
Keep brain cells from dying. Even though it’s tempting to put away anything that remotely resembles schoolwork, try to maintain some connection to what the kids learnt in their previous school year. Try to have fun while doing so – complete worksheets specifically designed for students in their grade or play games that foster learning without them even realizing it.
Don’t let hanging out at the mall be an option. I sometimes hear working parents say that their children refuse to attend any kind of structured program or can’t find work. Sadly, many of these children, as young as 12 years old, are left unsupervised for long periods of time. Not insisting that your child be involved in some structured activity or program is a recipe for disaster. There’s only so much time that kids can hang out in malls or at the park before they’re looking for more exciting entertainment! If you allow your children to get involved in activities that wouldn’t be acceptable during the school year, you may find that your exception becomes the rule. That slippery slope of summer can be a difficult one to climb back up as the school year draws closer.
Plan time together as a family. Summertime is perfect for getting outside and enjoying each other’s company. Day trips, ice cream on a nice summer evening, sitting outside on a restaurant patio or vacations are great ways of getting out of the house and reconnecting. With more daylight, even going for walks in the neighborhood is a great way of connecting – with neighbors who have been in hibernation, too!
Create a to-do list together. If you have a list created at the beginning of the summer, then when your child inevitably says, “I’m bored,” you can remind him or her of all the great things they wanted to do but didn’t have time for during the school year - that craft set that she received as a birthday gift months earlier, organizing his photos into an album, sorting through school projects and deciding which to keep.
Don’t forget old friends. While keeping busy in alternate summer programs, your children may create new friendships. However, encourage connections with old school friends during the summer months. That way, the transition back to school will be an easier one.
Take time for yourself. Although a large part of summer holiday planning will likely include your children, don’t forget about your own needs. Don’t over-extend yourself. Take time for yourself, your friends and your partner. Use this time to rejuvenate before you, too, gear up for another school year – maybe even sneak in a one- or two-night getaway!
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