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Making the Transition to Summer Easier Written by Dr. Caron Goode

Summer vacation brings a welcome break to the hustle and bustle of the school year. For some parents, however, the mere thought of an extended break from the routine and structure that the school year offers is enough to make them feel like they need a one-way ticket to a vacation island of their own.

Whether you’re eagerly anticipating the summer months or dreading their return, the following are a few things you can do to ensure a smooth transition into the summer break and insure you make the most of your family time together.

  1. Consider your child’s need for freedom versus scheduling. Some children welcome lazy days that aren’t regulated by school bells, while others will miss the structure and consistency that the school year offers.

    If your child tends to thrive on a predictable schedule and consistent routine, you may wish to carry some of that structure over to the summer months. Children who embrace consistency enjoy being enrolled in a summer camp, having a set schedule of weekly activities or mapping out a list of adventures or projects they’d like to complete with mom and dad. For younger children, breaking the day into designated segments for outside time, music time, storytime, arts and crafts time and free play may provide the sense of structure that their preschool day has offered and that they’ve come to expect. Children who crave predictability in their day may also suffer from less tantrums and meltdowns if their sleeping and eating schedules remain consistent. If you’re planning a family vacation, these children definitely appreciate knowing where they’re going, when they’re going and what they’ll be doing once they get there. Some older children enjoy helping to plan the sightseeing itinerary.

    Children who welcome a relaxed schedule may enjoy having a variety of materials (like arts and crafts, dress-up clothing, puppets, etc.) available for creative play at their leisure. These kids enjoy the freedom to spend their time doing as they wish. They can occupy themselves for hours, engaging in fantasy play outdoors or reading books snuggled up on a porch swing. For these children, being home may be the most enjoyable offering of the summer.

  2. Have a plan of action. Whether or not your children have a structured summer, have a parenting plan of action in place before launching into the summer months.

    For working parents, it will be essential to secure childcare before the summer school break. If you’ll be hiring a new sitter or taking your child to a new daycare provider, allow additional time to make a smooth transition. Setting up a few test runs where you’re only gone a limited amount of time and arranging for a chunk of time when you can all play together can help aid in the transition process.

    If you’ll be enrolling your child in a summer camp, evaluate your summer camp options, and take your child’s interactive style and interests into account. A child who craves consistency may not fare well in an environment that embraces an unstructured day and vice versa.

    It’s also important to remember that children develop relationships throughout the school year and may anticipate getting together with their school pals over the summer. Be sure to connect with your child’s friend’s parents and get to know them before summer starts. Consider having an end-of-the-school-year cookout or get-together. This can be a great opportunity to get to know the children your child talks fondly about and to set up a few playdates.

  3. Put the ‘free’ back in free play. Many communities offer free or low-cost programs for children during the summer months. Be sure to take advantage of the events and activities put on by your community.

    With a few phone calls to your City or Town Hall, community centres and recreation departments, you’ll likely find a host of free or low-cost activities and events planned for the children in your community during the summer months. In many communities, local businesses sponsor children’s entertainment and libraries offer story times and special events.

  4. Move from entertaining to engaging. For many children, free time during the school is limited and spent playing video games or watching television. During the summer months, parents may wish to make a conscious effort to engage rather than entertain their children.

    During the summer months when free family time is at an all-time high, consider setting aside time each day to do something together. When you do something together, you provide your family with the chance to be their own source of entertainment. A walk around the block after dinner, a family game night or even kicking around the ball in the backyard provides an opportunity for the family to reconnect and re-establish their sense of unity and togetherness.

  5. Optimize your outlook. Considering the wonderful opportunities summertime has for your family can help parents stay focused on the great things the school break has to offer.

    For many parents, coming up with activities and outings to keep their children occupied during the summer months is a challenge. For those who have financial and work scheduling considerations, this burden may seem overwhelming.

    Taking a step back to optimize your outlook can help keep negative feelings at bay. The summer break offers parents valuable time with their children that they often don’t get during the school year. Regardless of whether you’re cruising around the world or riding a pretend raft in your own backyard, the additional time you have together provides for priceless opportunities to strengthen the parent-child bond.

Dr. Goode is a licensed counselor, author, speaker and coach. She is the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents International (acpi.biz). She recently authored the award-winning parenting book, Raising Intuitive Children (New Page, 2009). Her newest book, Kids Who See Ghosts, guide them through their fears (2010, Red Wheel\Weiser) is available in your local bookstores and on amazon.com. For more information, contact Dr. Goode at caron30@gmail.com.

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