Coping With Summer: A Parent’s Primer

The long days of summer are upon us! For many families, the summer months mean major shifts in roles, rules, and responsibilities. Schedules may need to be altered to care for youngsters who are normally at school. The all-too-familiar summertime chant, “What are we gonna do today?” may have already begun to fill the morning air. By August, this is replaced with the old, “I’m so-o-o bored!” Hopefully, your summer will be filled with happy moments and wonderful vacations, but in these continuing difficult economic times, vacation plans may have been put on hold. While the summer is a time for potential joy, it can quickly sour and become a long experience you wish to forget.

There Are Fun Things To Do

Even if you have limited time (and money), there are always things that family members can do. Think of planning a day trip. For example, on Long Island, you may want to consider going to the east end, to the Montauk lighthouse. Or go to New York City and take in a museum (there are a host of traditional and surprisingly non-traditional ones all over the Big Apple), walk through Lincoln Center, enjoy a street fair, go to the top of the Empire State Building, walk through the South Street Seaport, stroll Battery Park or visit the Statue of Liberty.

Local newspapers and online resources often have a wealth of summer activities in your area. Learn about all of the wonderful free events that are available- concerts, fireworks, children’s plays and activities, and so much more.

Summer brings changes in our children’s lives, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that parents experience changes in their lives. On the contrary, work schedules continue, home-based chores demand regular attention, and life goes on as usual. How to juggle all of this? How to make the summer tolerable for all family members? Not an easy task, but certainly one that can be achieved. Let’s set some basic ground rules.

  1. Summer should not be an “academic-free” zone.
  2. Children belong to a club called “family”.
  3. Members of clubs have privileges and responsibilities.
  4. Responsibilities change over time.

Summer Should Not Be An Academic-Free Zone

Summer should not be considered a vacation from the learning experience. Summer goals can be modest and realistic (to sustain the gains made during the academic year), or more ambitious (to increase reading or math levels). A few minutes of reading three times each week will serve to keep your child’s growth in check.

Little ones who cannot yet read should certainly be read to. Older ones should be taken to the library regularly. Establish some expectations regarding reading. For example, to encourage reading, see if you can find a book that has a video version. When your child has finished reading the book, you can make an adventure out of sitting down together and enjoying the movie version. Ask them if this is how they pictured it when they read the story, how the book differs from the movie. This encourages critical thinking skills.

Keeping a “Summer 20xx” scrapbook will encourage writing in the younger set. It’s a wonderful way to maintain skills, establish routines, create responsibilities, and end up with something to show next year’s teachers! Children who can write should be encouraged to write postcards to distant relatives. And, of course, emails, communicating with friends and family members can be fun. Just be sure to contact those relatives and request that they respond!

Children in the family should understand that the fun part of each day cannot begin until some minimum academic work is completed. This should be one of the “non-negotiables” of summer.

What About Rules And Regulations?

As age permits, you may have to reconsider some long-standing family rules. Curfews may need to be extended, rules regarding how far from the house your child can play may have to be altered. All of these things should be considered carefully. As children grow older they require more latitude, more trust, and a bit more freedom. However – and this is surely important – you should not be pressured into doing this! If you are truly uncomfortable with changing certain rules, try to discuss the issues with your child. Ask yourself if holding on to certain rules is all that important – if this is where you really want to take a stand. If not, maybe it is appropriate to make some changes.

Children who are away from school for so many weeks certainly have time to take on added jobs around the house. After all, along with increased freedom comes increased responsibilities. A family meeting to discuss this relationship can be productive. It goes something like this: “If you want to stay out later, it tells me that you are older. If that’s the case, then it’s fair that I expect you to take on some additional chores.” These chores can be family-related (babysit for your brother two times a week), house-related (mow the lawn every other week), or individual (fold your laundry and put it away).

Certainly have a family meeting to discuss safety issues. If your kids are old enough to go to the pool or beach without you, discuss basic safety considerations. If the family is going hiking, biking, or boating, make a family event out of checking equipment and testing each child’s knowledge of safety rules. Make up a test and offer a prize for the most correct answers. Remember, a violation of safety rules must be dealt with immediately. The consequence should be directly related to the event, so, for example, in the case of a violation of bicycle safety, the child should lose bicycle privileges for several days.

A Special Situation

For those children who take medication during the school year for ADHD, don’t think that summer vacation translates into a “medication vacation”. On the contrary, for the impulsive ADHD youngster, summertime can be a difficult time to get through safely. Consider this fact: non-medicated ADHD youngsters make significantly more visits to hospital emergency rooms! If your child continues to struggle with the non-structured nature of lengthy vacations, be cautious about medication holidays. Talk to your prescribing physician and your child.


Summer vacations can be wonderful, despite being perplexing. But it’s worth doing everything you can to make it a fun time… for ALL concerned! If you have specific questions about this subject, let us know. We look forward to responding.

How Can We Help?

Many people from all over the world have benefited from the successful, strategy-packed mental health services offered by The Coping Counselors at the Center for Coping. You can, too!

  • If you have questions about any of the issues you are dealing with, why not set up a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our Coping Counselors?
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