We did it! We made it to summer!
After this past year, everyone deserves a break and a massive standing ovation. This year, summer in New York City has a glimmer of normalcy – the parks are packed with kids and families, kids are going to sleep away camps, vacations are back on, and extended families are reuniting for the first time in 18-months.
But not all kids and families breathe a sigh of relief during the summer. The difference in pace and routine, and/or the anticipation of separation and rejoining peers groups after a year of quarantine send many kids (and adults!) into a swirl of anxiety that can be difficult to manage.
Wondering what you can do to help your child cope with the summer? Read on!
- Create a calendar. I know, I know – it’s summer! It’s time to take a break from schedules and calendars! Some kids are able to navigate a lack of structure and thrive with surprises, but most are not. Printing a blank calendar and writing (or drawing pictures) of what is going to happen each day can take the stress out of the slower summer pace. For some kids, having “camp,” “home” or “vacation” on the calendar might be sufficient. Other kids might want a reminder of what is going to happen at camp (field trip, special art project, etc.) each day. If your child’s camp hasn’t shared that level of detail, ask them for a rough schedule. Camps want kids to succeed, and they’ll be happy to work with you to support your child.
- Get outside. Every day. No excuses. Especially this summer, kids need to give their eyes and brains a screen break, and remember what it’s like to engage with their environment. This could be a walk to try a new ice cream spot, or a bike ride to a new playground, or spending the day at the beach or at a pool. Plan a weekend adventure. If you have an older child, ask them to help you plan. Take turns coming up with ideas of what to do. Don’t forget to put it on your calendar! And you should use the opportunity to leave your screens at home, too. Model for your kids what it’s like to be fully present. This screen-free, outdoor time will help you connect and engage in playfulness – and who doesn’t need more genuine connection and play?!
- Give yourself and your child permission to really feel your feelings. Too often, we’re in a rush to calm everyone down and move into solving the problem, and we don’t allow ourselves (or our kids) to really go through the full cycle of feelings. Summer is typically a slower time for everyone, so use that lack of rush to see what happens when you really sink into your joy, sadness, disappointment, frustration, or anger. When your child starts to cry, what is it like to just sit with them, offering a hug or rocking them or just being with them until they stop, without trying to fix things? Allowing yourself and your child to go through the full cycle of an emotion will release stress, and keep you out of fight/flight/freeze.
- Help your child set a goal. Let this goal be purely child-driven. What do they want to learn this summer? Accomplish? One child set a goal of learning to do a cartwheel. Another child set out to walk 100 miles. Another family set a goal of reading 10 new books each. Once the goal is set, help your child create a plan on executing the goal by breaking it up into little steps. What supplies do they need? How long will the goal take? How will they know when they’re finished? How much do they need to do each week? Goal-setting for children (and adults!) is important because it gives them a sense of purpose, which will build confidence and self-esteem. It also helps them focus and make decisions. And, of course, goal-setting and mapping out a plan builds Executive Functioning skills.
However you decide to spend your summer, I wish you lots of relaxation and cool breezes!