Chicago Suburban Family

Suburban Family

Summer: Reflection and Simple Pleasures

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All year long you have felt pressure to meet standards set by school, work,  and extended family. Take advantage of the summer that has fewer holiday obligations and make sure that everyone in the family gets a break from overreaching expectations. Here are a few thoughts about how to hone in on the current stages and priorities for your children as you dive into summer.

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Reflect on the academic year. Do you collect papers, notebooks, art work that your child produced over the academic year? Setting aside a morning or afternoon at the very beginning of summer to review with your child work from various stages of the year can be illuminating for both of you. Perhaps your child would like to present this work to you and take pride in all that was accomplished. Or, you can gather the best representation of his work to reassure progress and provide encouragement.

What is your child’s superpower? Celebrate strengths and use this information to explore new opportunities and to plan for future pursuits.

Will it be important to weave in work on academic skills during the summer months to strengthen areas of weakness? Perhaps tutoring is recommended.

An honest review can create a sense of completion and close the door on the school year. Make way for carefree chaos that endears us to summertime. Play Pink Floyd’s “Schools Out” and dance around the house to ceremoniously bring in the summer. Or, begin summer with a picnic outside, even if it rains.

Favorite summer activities. Map out on a calendar all the outings, camps, and vacations that you have planned. This may take up all the space on your refrigerator. Then, shore up a list of choices for everyday activities to fill in the gaps and to provide a pool of choices for spontaneous adventures. This list will be invaluable for you and for any child care assistance that you rely on during the summer months.

Some ideas on this list might include:

  • Attend Summer library presentations.
  • Take a trip to the Zoo
  • Walk in nature with friends.
  • Build a fort in the trees or out of cardboard boxes
  • Write a letter to a distant relative or to a friend who has moved away.
  • Go swimming and stop for ice cream afterward.
  • Host a birthday party.
  • Ride bikes.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Take your dog or your friend’s dog for a walk.
  • Visit a u-pick farm and gather berries or produce.
  • Enjoy a concert in the park.

Provide some structure. Maybe one regular pottery class is enough to provide a fun event to look forward to every week. Defining regular home routines that can be created or adapted for summer days can help. Busy parent, Maria Lemay, keeps a chore list “to keep us all on track for enjoying time off together.” Family time is then unencumbered by household duties. Time off might include activities that kids can do on their own within age appropriate boundaries.  Perhaps your child is ready to walk to the neighborhood market for a treat with friends and cell phone along.

Life skills. This time out of the academic setting can be ideal for tackling basic life skills. Tying your shoelaces, swimming, counting back change, driving a car, cooking a meal, using a computer can all be useful life skills. To help her children practice budgeting and managing finances, Maria Lemay asks them to take a turn being responsible for planning a meal or an outing within a set budget. Practical experience is the best teacher when it comes to developing skills and habits that will serve your child as she moves toward adulthood.

MaryAnne Sohlstrom, a new Grandmother, likes to remind parents that “you are not raising a child; you are raising an adult.” Look for examples of the responsible adult that you wish your child to grow toward becoming. Creating a vision can help to highlight qualities and skills you especially want to your future adult to possess.

Listen for clues about social struggles.  Car rides provide opportunities to lend your child an ear. Offer up a few open-ended questions or just listen for what comes through the silence. There are bound to be bumps along the road of childhood friendships that call for your help in developing a new perspective.

Resources are available to positively address social skills and it can be helpful to teach some of these skills directly. Mom, Kristina of Kids Activities Blog, kidsactivitiesblog.com, offers some simple suggestions for teaching kids about being a good friend. Gather scenarios from playdates as fodder for role play practice and emphasize the skills you want your child to learn. Develop conversation skills by using a speed chatting activity. Set a timer for one minute while one friend takes a turn to ask questions and the second friend listens and responds. Then switch. There should be something to report about what they learned from one another.

Downtime. Lazy afternoons can expand your child’s sense of time. Instead of feeling crunched, enter a time zone that opens the imagination and gives permission to roam, to feel bored, to dream. No purpose is intended or wanted.

Welcome the permission inherent in Summertime where it is okay to lay spread eagle on the grass and look at the clouds. This is time to wonder about the world and notice questions that lie beneath the surface.

Weaving a thread of sweet summertime bliss though these months will hopefully bring refreshment and new energy to anticipating the coming academic year. The Summer memories that your family create together will last a lifetime.

By Diane Turner Maller

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