The sun comes out, the birds start singing, you see a daffodil or violet, and the longing starts. As the world around you explodes with life, you yearn to be free. Summer—and all its potential—captivates your kids. And honestly, you can’t fight the excitement either.
Realistically, expecting anyone to ignore summer and all that it brings wouldn’t be natural. Summer is the season that simply won’t accommodate much regimentation. For its brief visit, summer changes our outlook, and it can be terribly hard to wait for school to be over before you begin to enjoy it.
So where do you get the fortitude to persevere with excellence and to stay on mission? And even more challenging—how do you keep your kids from checking out or shifting into play mode?
Adapting, rather than entirely resisting, is the key.
In a guided way, acknowledge and enter into your kids’ excitement for the upcoming break. Letting them share their hopes and dreams for the summer as well as talking about some of your own plans will lessen their guilt over wandering thoughts. It will show them that you share—and can sympathize with—their temptation to be distracted. Allotting short blocks of time to discuss summertime will acknowledge the inevitable and let you set boundaries. And it will present an opportunity for you to encourage practical and realistic goal-setting for the summer.
Another helpful segue is to begin “summer” reading now. Whether a traditional getaway vacation is possible for the family or not, we all know that books can encourage kids to let their imaginations take them places. Introducing summer-themed reading will keep their excitement from seeming to be in opposition to learning. An emphasis on science in summer—such as its peculiar weather changes, gardening, the important roles of birds and insects—fits easily this time of year.
Books about travel and summer traditions (e.g., celebrating the Fourth of July) can serve to entice kids to develop and maintain the habit of reading throughout summer break. Having a few actual books to show them, rather than just handing them a list of titles, is a more convincing sell. If the book is part of a series, you have the added bonus of whetting their appetites to continue it when their schoolwork is done.
Finally, giving a nod to the upcoming summer vacation will allow kids who don’t easily adapt to change get used to the idea of leaving behind the familiar routine of the last several months. You have had time to observe how their various temperaments respond to change.
Some need to be reassured that “disconnecting” from the school setting does not mean disconnecting from everyone and everything they’ve grown accustomed to. Remind kids that summer will be a time to reconnect with friends, family, and nonacademic pursuits. And if they love schoolwork—yes, you know that rare breed does exist—there are probably some apps or a workbook if they prefer. Discussing summer will help students come to terms with change that would otherwise seem abrupt.
Kids who tend to equate free time solely with self-indulgence will benefit from brainstorming about how they can reach out and serve others. This will also benefit those who are in the habit of being sedentary and need encouragement to “get up and out” during the summer months.
Making peace with summer vacation will be much easier if we acknowledge its power and befriend its virtues. Seeing it as an opportunity, rather than an obstacle, will help you keep your kids engaged. Allowing its small rays of sunshine in is a sane approach to this natural, inevitable change.
How do you and your kids prepare for the summer?