Sunday, May 29, 2016


In our over-scheduled, stressful, hectic world, our children need to experience the flow of summer.  Author and behavioral pediatrician, Dr. Tim Jordan, recently listed important reasons why kids need summer camp. He said, "Camp can be a time to slow down your pace of living. Kids today feel hurried and stressed out about trying to fit everything into their busy lives. Hopefully, most camps allow a more relaxed, less structured schedule so that kids can relax and slow down." Simply substitute "summer" for camp, and you know what I mean! Your children need unstructured play, and that play actually impacts their future happiness.  

Shifting into the summer schedule can be challenging for both adults and children.  With this shift, we alter the regular routines that we have followed during the school year.  Any time we have a transition – even a positive one – we experience stress.  Your child will feel this stress, too.  For the child who has difficulty with transitions, the shift into the summer schedule can be particularly stressful.  The stress our children feel may show up as increased misbehavior.

Here are some ideas for making the transition into summer smoother:

Talk about Changes Ahead of Time: Children can feel powerless when they experience unanticipated changes.  The more information they have ahead of time and the more opportunities to talk about the changes, the more powerful they will feel.  Talk about the details with your child.  Let them know how summer will be different from the school year, about any plans for travel that you have, and about how daily life will look.  

Provide Ramp Down Times: Remind them that summer will begin in three weeks, then two weeks, then one week, and so on.  Help them ramp down.  “Ramping down” is especially vital for children who do not transition easily.

Engage Your Child in Planning: If you have vacations, camps, lessons, or day trips on the agenda for the summer, engage your child in the planning.  Again, children will feel influential and valuable when involved in planning family activities.  They will also get excited!  Anticipation is a big part of the joy of it all!  

Stay in Touch with Friends: Your child will not be seeing the same people that he has seen on a daily basis since the school year began.  It is helpful to plan ways to stay in touch during the summer.  Have contact information on hand.  Scheduling a get together once a week, every two weeks, or on whatever basis works for your family can be encouraging.  It could be meeting for a movie each month or going out for pizza.  Your child will know ahead of time that he will be seeing his friends regularly.

Say Goodbye: Plan a “See Ya Next Year” ritual that you can do at the end of every school year.  It could be a pool party, year book signing, visit to the ice cream parlor, or a trip to the movies.  This event can be something that everyone anticipates, and it is a setting for saying goodbye for a few months.  You can keep a scrap book of each year’s event.  Rituals like this are unifying and calming.

Recognize Your Child’s Needs and Your Needs: All of us, adults and children alike, have needs.  When our lives change as they do when we shift from the routines of the school year to a different set of activities in the summer, our needs are not met in the same ways.  Your child may have felt very valuable in fulfilling his “school job.”  How will he get the need to feel valuable met during the summer?  He may have felt very influential with his classmates.  How will he get the need to feel powerful met while out of school?  Let’s take a closer look at our needs.     

Have a great summer!