Counselor's Corner: Summer Survival Guide
Once a month, Raising Resilience will feature a post from a local therapist or educator. This month's article comes from Raising Resilience board member, Lisa Bernardin, MA, LMHCA.
Your Guide to Summer Survival
If you’re like me, summer can be fraught with anxiety about how to keep your kids busy, healthy, happy, and more than anything, away from the endless hours of TV, computer and video games. Now that I’m working and my kids aren’t little anymore, the pressure to keep them meaningfully occupied is greater than ever. However, since it’s not in the budget to sign them up for 15 different camps, classes or events, I’ve had to come up with my own summer survival approach.
Here is a link to a printable Boredom Busters pdf and a list of the top three strategies I’ve used to tackle the challenge of summer and significantly alleviate my angst:
1. Family Buy-In
At the start of summer, sit down as a family and come to some agreements. Let the kids have as much ownership in this as possible.
Start the conversation:
Begin with, “As you know, too much time on electronics is not healthy for your brain or your body and we want you to be active and relating with friends as much as possible over summer. Let’s think together about some ways we can manage electronics and encourage other activities.”
Let your kids brainstorm ideas (I like to use a white board or poster paper to write things down.) The key here is buy-in. If the kids own the ideas, it will make enforcing them so much easier. Give lots of great feedback and praise, even if the idea is unrealistic, while steering them towards the best parameters. Keep this meeting interactive and positive.
Redirect kids toward solutions you can live with:
If your child says: “I vote we get to have 4 hours of electronics in the morning, go outside for a break and have 4 more in the afternoon / evening.”
You might respond with: “That’s a great idea about breaking up the electronics time, but, 8 hours is a little much for one day. How about 1 hour in the morning, 1 hour in the afternoon and 1 hour in the evening?”
Post your agreements somewhere as a way to reinforce the parameters when they try to push the envelope. “You want to watch two movies today? Well, that doesn’t fit with our agreements does it? How about half today and half tomorrow?”
2. Boredom Busters
Create an ‘I’m Bored Jar.’ At the start of your summer family meeting bring out a jar and slips of paper. Tell the kids that everyone knows that at some point, the summer days will become boring. However, this summer, any time someone says, “I’m bored,” they must pick a slip of paper out of the ‘I’m Bored Jar’ and do whatever is on it. Then spend some fun time as a family brainstorming what to put on the slips of paper. The tasks don’t have to be all negative, some can be fun, constructive, or out of the box ideas.
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
Take the dog for a walk
Call a relative (grandparent, aunt, cousin)
Write a letter to someone and mail it
Read a chapter
Water the garden
Organize a water balloon war
You tube a song and learn it on your instrument
Practice doing handstands until you can balance for 15 seconds
Clean out last year’s clothes that won’t fit this school year
3. Call on the village
Use the village! You know the saying, “It takes a village,” right? Well, collaborate with your village. This year I sent an email to all the families in my son’s class asking if they would be interested in taking charge of a group activity once or twice this summer. If each of us takes charge of a day or two, then the summer could be full of fun and inexpensive options. Parents responded immediately and we circulated a sign up list.
As a working mother, I am so grateful to have the support of other parents helping my kid stay engaged and active this summer.
Here are some of the plans we came up with:
Take a group on a day hike up to a local waterfall
Beach day and picnic at one of our local beaches
Take a trip to our area’s “Central Park” where there is a lake for swimming, boat rentals, snack shop, etc.
Organize a bike adventure at a local park
Go mini golfing for an afternoon
Plan a campfire / s’mores party down at the beach
Meet at the local skate park for an afternoon of skating and stop for ice cream on the way home
It’s always more work to plan these summer days, but it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable chore. Collaborate as a family, keep a positive attitude, stay firm with the parameters on the electronics, and make a plan. I think you’ll find that just taking the time to sit down and start the planning process will get the creative juices flowing. Your kids might even surprise you with ideas you hadn’t considered. One thing’s for sure, it will take that weight of anxiety off and turn summer into something much more manageable.