It's the best of times, and it's the worst of times. It's the time of splash pads and ice cream, and it's the time of anarchy and “are we there yet?”
Summer vacation... These are the months memories are made of—if you survive them, that is. Sure, on the one hand a break from the grueling routine of the school year is welcome. But, on the other hand, those long, hot summer days can stretch out ahead of you like a headache waiting to happen. Here are some dos and don’t to help you get through and give the kids some balance in their routine.
Don’t over-program kids. We complain about “entitled” and “lazy” children and then we create those very characteristics by doing everything for them—including their thinking. When you schedule every second of a child’s summer you take away vital practice at self-determination and creativity. So, treat “I’m so bored” as music to your ears. Brainstorm boredom busters, coach them in planning, but encourage them to be stakeholders in their own summer fun.
Read more: Confessions of a free-range parent>
Do create some structure. Most kids behave best when days are ordered. Sure, we all need a break from the monotony of the school-year routine, but abandoning routines altogether leads to boredom and misbehaviour. So, work with your kids to create a summertime schedule. What time will we get up? When will we eat? When will we have screen time (and how much)? What’s an appropriate summer bedtime? Create some parameters and then allow the times in-between to be fluid and free.
Don’t start a summer-school program in your living room. So many parents have the misguided notion that by enforcing mandatory math and reading practice all summer long, they’re dodging the homework hell that comes every fall. Wrong. Unless your child is in critical need of remediation (in which case hire a tutor), give him a break. By policing academics in off-time parents are not benefitting children. Quite the contrary, kids will turn sour on schoolwork and start the new school year drained and resentful. You want learning to be fun. So give them some time off so they can re-set and start fresh.
Do keep a love of learning alive. But make it fun. Rather than policing daily “reading practice,” read to them on long car rides, by flashlight while camping, or during the stickiest heat of a beach day. While on vacation, explore. Ask questions. Try new things. The antecedents to learning are curiousity, critical thinking and risk-taking. How can you encourage the growth of those vital life skills this summer?
Do embrace summer for what it is—an opportunity to make lasting family memories. You can mow the grass later. Get out there and enjoy your kids. Your family will benefit from that love and it will all year long.
Read more: 6 parenting rules (not) to live by>