By: Mariann Young, Ph.D.
Rainbow Rehabilitation Centers
Summer is the time for picnics, vacations and outdoor fun of all kinds. And, for some of us, the question is, “What am I going to do to keep my children safe, supervised and entertained?” With planning and some preparation, children can have fun and stay academically enriched during the summer— and parents can keep their sanity!
A survey of readers of the Children’s Hospital of Denver Magazine were asked what they would be doing for the summer. About half of the readers (52 percent) responded that they believed their summer would be “just the right amount of busy.” Yet an all too familiar complaint from “tweens” and adolescents is that they are “bored.” Survey takers in their early teens were most likely to say that they would be bored (40 percent) while only 10 percent said that they would be overscheduled. These numbers were nearly equal for the older teens. This result is not too surprising, as older teens are typically more independent, have increased responsibilities, and have had several summers of planning and organizing their lives. They are closer to transitioning to young adulthood and this is reflected in their decision making.
There are several strategies that parents may utilize to ensure that their children are not bored or overscheduled. Make the summer enjoyable for children by planning the following for summer break:
- Engage children in the planning process. Plan ahead and have supplies on hand for indoor activities. If an activity is to take place outdoors, try to have an alternative plan if the weather does not cooperate.
- As the summer passes, review the summer plans that you have made to date. Brainstorm ways to fill the gaps and discuss if a planned outing or event was successful.
- Mark all of the activities on a family-sized calendar and post it in a central location. Make sure to consider the needs of each child on the calendar.
- Insist on summertime learning. Summer outings may present opportunities to learn about history, geography, and nature. Encourage your child to keep a journal of activities, including pictures and postcards, to reinforce what they’ve learned on the outing.
- Revamp, but don’t eliminate routine. You may loosen up on some chores e.g., Friday and Saturday can be “don’t make the bed day,” but it is important to keep other chores and routines intact. Planning for events, getting adequate rest, packing and organizing for events are all good summertime strategies.
- Develop and review safety procedures for kids, including both outdoor and indoor activities. For example, teach kids not to give out personal information on the phone or while on the Internet, or teach sun safety.
- Insist on summertime reading. Let your child choose the material. Explore the local library and become familiar with the summer programs offered.
- Set a bedtime. Getting the proper amount of sleep every night is important.
- Limit TV and video games.
- Reinstitute bedtimes and wake-up times two weeks before the start of the school year—this helps kids adjust back to the school routine.
- Play and exercise.
- Help around the house
(Tips for Shifting from School Year to Summer Break, 2010).
The transition to staying home alone
Are you thinking about leaving your child at home alone? Many parents wait until the tween years to attempt this milestone—for a few minutes, or for a few hours everyday after school. Here are suggestions on making the transition easy for you and your child.
Discuss rules and expectations
Sit down with your child and discuss your family rules and expectations. Is your child allowed to watch television, use the computer when home alone? Write down what your child can and can’t do while he’s at home alone. Since your child’s demands may vary from day to day, update his daily to-do list to reflect his schedule.
Be specific about whether or not family or friends are allowed to visit while you’re away. Also, make it clear if you expect your child to work on his homework, practice the piano, or set the table for dinner. It’s also important to discuss consequences if your child decides to ignore the rules you’ve established for him.
Your child should never reveal that he is alone, so role-play potential situations with him to make sure he is prepared. Prepare your home before allowing him to stay by himself. Make sure all your smoke detectors are in working order, install a peep hole in your front door, restock your first aid kit, and make sure he checks the caller ID on the phone so he knows who is calling the house.
Transition your child to time home alone gradually. Begin with thirty minutes, adding on time as your child’s confidence grows. Before you know it, you and your child will be comfortable with him at home alone, and another milestone of growing up will be behind you (Is Your Tween Ready to Stay at Home Alone?, 2014).
Provide your child with rewards for assuming this responsibility. These can be in the form of verbal praise or a tangible reward such as a new game, clothing, or other treat.
Talk to your child often and review how things are going. Be flexible. Work together to build your child’s confidence.
Summer can be a challenging time for parents, but with some planning, it can also be rewarding and memorable for parents and their children. Have fun!
[accordian][toggle title=”References” open=”no”]
Is Your Tween Ready to Stay at Home Alone? (2014, May 12). Retrieved from about.com: http://tweenparenting.about.com/od/afterschoolactivities/tp/The-Home-Alone-Experience.htm
Tips for Shifting from School Year to Summer Break. (2010, April 13). Retrieved from Great Schools: http://www.greatschools.org/special-education/support/662-tips-for-shifting-from-school-year-to-summer-break.gs