As the school year draws to a close, you and your family probably view summer break as a well-deserved reprieve. The challenge lies in shifting gears to a different routine and a schedule that may change as often as every week, depending on the summer plans you’ve made for your child. This can affect your children, you and your spouse. The shift from school year to summer break (however welcome) represents a transition phase for all children and may pose special challenges if your child has learning and/or attention problems. Read on for practical tips that can help any family make a smooth transition to summer!

Tips to help parents

  1. Review the summer plans you’ve made to date. Where there are gaps, brainstorm ways to address them, such as parents rotating days off work to stay home with younger kids on unscheduled days.
  2. Post the family’s summer schedule. Mark activities (day camp, vacations, your teenager’s work schedule, etc.) on a “family size” calendar posted in a central location. Be sure to note blocks of unscheduled time as well; that way, you can anticipate free time to use as you wish – even if it’s just to enjoy a break in the action.
  3. Be prepared to be spontaneous. Keep a running list of places and people to visit when time permits and the mood strikes. Summer — free from homework and tutors — is a good time to stop by the science museum, bike trail, or concert-in-the-park you can’t seem to get to during the school year.
  4. If you and/or your child thrive on routine, build as much of it in to your summer schedule as possible. Even so, your routine may change every week or so; find ways to prepare for this transition. This may be as simple as mentally rehearsing the new routine (including daily wake-up time and preparation) with your child before the week begins. Remember: Transitions can be hard for parents, too!
  5. Ask other people (spouse, family members, and neighbors) for help shuttling kids to activities and supervising them on their “days off.” Trade carpooling and kid-watching duties with other parents in your neighborhood.
  6. Don’t succumb to summer stress! There is bound to be some bedlam and boredom in any household during the summer. When stress strikes, try to shrug it off and find humor in the situation.

Tips to help kids with learning and/or attention problems

  1. Revamp — but don’t eliminate — your child’s daily routine. A daily routine gives most kids with learning or attention problems a sense of structure and security. While certain tasks (such as doing homework) can be dropped during the summer, new ones (like packing for daily swim lessons) may be added. For fun, you might loosen up on certain chores during the summer, like designating every Friday as “Don’t make the bed” day!
  2. Prepare your child for her scheduled activities. If possible, visit the locations where she’ll be during day camp or day care in advance. Have your child talk to counselors, caregivers, as well as other kids have enjoyed those same situations and settings.
  3. Have your child contribute to the family calendar. Together, you can determine key dates (e.g., community pool opens for recreation swim, July Fourth barbeque) and have your child mark these on the calendar.
  4. Involve your child when preparing for family trips and activities. Depending on her age, she can help you map out driving routes or make a list of the clothing and recreational gear the family will need.
  5. Encourage summertime learning. Summer outings may present opportunities for your child to learn about history, geography, and nature. Look for “teachable moments” and encourage her to listen, read, take photographs, collect postcards, and keep a journal of her adventures. This type of learning can boost the self-esteem of a child who struggles in school.
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