As we approach the last days of school, with stress at its peak derived from finals and the last push to finish the school-year with good notes, it is so tempting to get all rules and strict schedules eased for this coming break.
We all need a break, our children need a break, therefore it is good having a few days to even a couple of weeks not doing much. After this much needed break, which is certainly not 3 months long, we need to make plans. Summer Break is a long break that comes with many challenges, lots of changes to our children’s daily life, and we know some kids are not flexible to so many changes.
Our children will do better with some kind of structure, plans and routine which allows for predictability. Many kids need a predictable “safe zone” like the one school provides, without it, children increase their levels of anxiety, possibly causing oppositional behavior, acting-out and tantrums.
One enticing idea is to have them stay at home all day, after all, it is easy to believe it a safe place with controlled stimuli. However, undesired situations are likely to happen in this scenario:
Staying home and having our children with excessive screen time in computer-games, YouTube videos, chats and other social media, is not healthy nor safe. On top of that, within home boundaries, children end up keeping in all the energy they need to burn, and this energy needs to vent. They also visit the kitchen quite often to “get something to eat”, so it can get messy real quick and stay messy all day.
Too much time together within an enclosed space with no structure and no place to burn the energy through physical activity creates the perfect set of circumstances to ignite fights, tantrums and chaos, and we certainly do not want that for our summer. We cannot expect our children to have self-regulation when they are not provided with the opportunity to meet their physical and sensory needs in an acceptable way.
On the social side, after a few days into the summer-break, children might miss their friends, teachers and familiar faces to interact with. While family time and family interactions are very important, we also need socializing with other people.
It is possible that you might go away for vacation yet you’re already dreading the car or airplane ride, the stress of getting ready, of getting to a different place and adapting to a plan so different in every way from life as usual.
Let’s not forget that our children need to read and learn new things to avoid what is known as “brain drain”, it happens when their minds are not immersed in structured academic activities. We don’t want to impose on them academic assignments when it is their summer break. We don’t want to be confrontational in making them do things against their will, all becoming irritable; hurting our relationship, making it negative just when we have more time to spend together and we want it to be positive.
How to address all this? We need to get creative. In our next newsletter we will address different ways to approach these issues.