Behavior & Development • May 30, 2013

Goals, Expectations, and Summer Fun!

School is finally out for the summer for most kids. As the daughter of a teacher, this reminds me of the nearly 3 luxurious months of sleeping in and the free time to do whatever I wanted.   But then, after a few weeks, I’d get bored and mom would have to force us to turn off the television and make us play outside. Of course, the week before going back to school, the anguished cry: “I can’t believe summer is over all ready! We didn’t DO ANYTHING!”  Now, as a parent, I can better appreciate that a little planning and structure –balanced with some increased flexibility and “down time”—can help the whole family enjoy summer.

Summer Schedule

SummerVacationThis can be particularly true for some children, who need consistent routines and seem to “fall apart” when school gets out. If they are not already signed up for camp every day, it may be helpful for these children and ‘tweens to collaborate in creating a general summer weekday schedule. This may include expected wake and sleep times, household chores, reading or math review, and planned (but limited) screen time.  Negotiating this up front before summer break begins can help ease the transition for these children as well as curtailing arguments between parents and children about expectations.  It is always a good idea to plan to complete daily responsibilities before engaging in fun activities.  Write down the plan as a visual reminder for everyone.  This also helps teach time management, self-discipline and collaborative problem-solving—skills all kids need to practice.

Also, consider asking family members to brainstorm about fun activities they’d like to do or new things they’d like to learn this summer. You will likely need to explain that this is a “wish list” and then pick a few realistic things to do. You also may need to nudge your child out of his/her comfort zone a bit.  Perhaps your child would like to learn to ride a two-wheeler, try the big water slide, or earn some money helping to water plants or walk dogs. This can boast children’s self-confidence and can even become a lasting memory (e.g., “The Summer I Went Off the High Dive”).  You may also want to use summer as an opportunity to start (or resume) fun activities as a family, such as walks, bike rides, game nights or outdoor concerts. Hopefully, this won’t just be a good opportunity to teach your children goal-setting and planning, but a path to having a fun, enriching summer for the whole family.