Author: Lea Zweig, Psy.D. and Alexa Rabin Psy.D.

Preparing your Children for SummerThe summer can be a great time for children to spend quality time with family, and to rest and recover from the rigors of school. Time off from school and unstructured time for children in the summer has its perks and disadvantages.  Too much unstructured time for children and teens can lead to a variety of problems, including boredom. Excessive boredom can lead to irritability, acting out, thrill seeking, complacency, and poor decision-making in children and adolescents. Child psychologists often find that children and teens who have way too much free time on their hands in the summer, tend to get into more trouble.  Accordingly, these are the children and adolescents that are more likely to end up in a psychologist’s office because parents need help managing associated problematic behaviors or negative emotions.  The best way to prepare your child or teen for the summer is to organize and plan ahead.

Each child has different hobbies and interests, which can guide what type of plans you make for your child’s summer.  It is best to involve your child in summer activities that they will enjoy.  Moreover, your child will be more inclined to participate in these activities, if he or she is involved in the process of choosing them.  Of course, it is very important that you as the parent make the final decision, since you will need to determine what is feasible, affordable, and most appropriate for your child.  The following ideas will help you plan the best summer for you and your family.

Create a week-by-week plan

Create a week-by-week plan for the summer and write it down on a calendar so everyone is on the same page.

Give advanced warning

Children tend to operate best when they know what to expect and have time to prepare for any major changes to their schedule.  Additionally, older children and teens may have their own expectations for summer, and if you inform them last minute of your expectations, they are more likely to feel disappointed, frustrated, or upset.  If you let them know ahead of time what your expectations are, it also allows time to negotiate your expectations and your child’s expectations for summer to create a balanced plan that works for everyone.

Follow your child’s interests

Plan the summer around your child’s interests and needs.  If your child enjoys sports, find a summer camp or league that allows your child to pursue his or her sport of choice.  If your child has been struggling in school, find a summer camp to help build academic skills.  You may need to sign your child up for multiple camps or activities in order to fill their summer schedule and meet multiple needs or interests.  If you are not able to sign your child up for certain programs or activities, you can also structure your own activities for your child.  For example, you can organize a park day once per week with peers, or purchase a workbook for your child to work on for a certain amount of time per day to build specific academic skills.

Keep your own schedule in mind

If you work and no one is home during the day, then make a plan for what your child can do while you are at work (attend summer camp, volunteer, etc.).  Of course, your child’s activities and schedule will depend upon your child’s age and abilities.  For example, teenagers might be able to get a paying job or volunteer in order to acquire job experience, while younger children will need age-appropriate activities in which they can be supervised.

Talk to your child

Talk to your child about what they would like to do and explain why it is important that they do something with their time over summer.

Talk to other parents

Talk to the parents of your child’s friends and ask them about their summer plans. Children are typically more motivated to engage in activities if their friends are also participating.

Down time

When planning the summer do not forget to plan some down time for you and your children. Too much structured time can also be negative.  Children benefit from some time to themselves where they can make plans with friends, relax, or get some alone time.

Family time

Plan some family time by scheduling time together, planning an activity together, or taking a trip.

There are many programs available to help you plan something for your child.  It is crucial to plan ahead, because there are usually deadlines to sign up for different programs.  Most importantly, enjoy the summer and encourage your child to have fun!