It has begun, for every parent, teacher and student, the count down to summer. With Memorial Day just around the corner the intensity of the countdown begins in earnest. Ask a child how many days they have left in the school year and they can tell you immediately, with accuracy to the minute. Ask a parent and they are less likely to know the details but feel the upcoming pressure mounting. What are the plans for the summer, are the reservations set, how will I fill my child’s free time, how will I keep them active and keep the whining to a minimum. Most children are excited about summer vacation but that lasts for a very short time frame. The beauty of our school system is the rigorous schedule, your child may not enjoy aspects of it but the reality is schools are effective people movers. Your child has a schedule that is consistent, predictable and rigid. Schools fill your child’s day with activities, lesson assignments and order in a chaotic environment. As parents we can debate standardized testing, classroom size and school budgets but keeping your child on a focused schedule we cannot argue. Schools have that down to a science.
Breaking that schedule is part of what excites your child about summer plus the anticipation of fun: Fun with friends, fun vacations, fun summer camps and the freedom to break out of the rigid schedule of the school year. And that lasts for about a week! The reality is as parents we don’t have lesson plans for every hour of every day. We have the big plans down, hopefully, but the rest of summer is vague, unplanned, “spontaneous” and frankly boring for our kids. If your child is getting 8 hours of sleep per night, they are expecting you to fill the remaining 16 hours x 7 days a week. Are you freaking out yet? To manage this more effectively take a page from your child’s teacher. Have a working schedule; give your child a level of structure they have come to expect at school. This gives them something to count on each day, lowers the pressure to “have fun” and keeps the whining under control. Whether you are a stay at home parent or working professionally out of the home you keep a calendar of upcoming events in order to be successful. Do the same with your child’s summer vacation. This structure will feel normal and natural to your child and will minimize the dreaded statement heard every summer, ”I’m bored”.