As the school year draws to a close, you and your child may be looking forward to summer break as a well-deserved reprieve. The challenge lies in shifting gears from a known routine to a new, possibly less-structured schedule that may change as often as every week, depending on the summer plans you’ve made for your child. This change can pose special challenges if your child has learning and/or attention problems. Read on for practical tips for making a smooth transition to summer.
- Review the summer plans you’ve made to date. Brainstorm ways to address any gaps and get them on the calendar.
- Revamp — but don’t eliminate — your child’s daily routine. A daily routine gives most kids 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) can be added.
- Post the family’s summer schedule where everyone can see it. Mark activities (day camps, vacations, your teenager’s work schedule, etc.) on a “family size” calendar posted in a central location and invite your child to contribute. Together, you can determine key dates (e.g., community pool opens for recreational swim, July Fourth barbeque, etc.) and your child can mark them on the calendar.
- 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, hit the bike trail, or go to the concert in the park you can’t seem to get to during the school year.
- If you and/or your child thrive on routine, build as much of it in to your summer schedule as possible. Even if your routine may change every week or so, find ways to prepare for this transition. It may be as simple as mentally rehearsing the new routine (including daily wake-up time and preparation) with your child before the week begins.
- Ask other people (spouse, family members, and neighbors) for help shuttling kids to activities and supervising them on their “days off.” See if you can trade carpooling and kid-watching duties with other parents in your neighborhood.
- Involve your child when preparing for family trips and activities. Depending on their age, your child can help map out driving routes or make a list of the clothing and recreational gear the family will need.
- Encourage summertime learning. Summer outings may present opportunities for your child to learn about history, geography, and nature. Look for “teachable moments” and encourage your child to listen, read, take photographs, collect postcards, and keep a journal of their adventures.