Students Transitioning to Summer Break

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

As soon as the weather starts to warm and the sun shines for longer portions of the day, students’ eyes start to glaze over in anticipation of the promised summer break after a long academic year. Typically students start anticipating the break well before the end of the school year as their behavior gets more and more unruly.

By the time summer break finally arrives, students are ready to get busy doing what they want to do, all day long. This means countless hours of video games, playing outside, and all sorts of other entertainment related activities. It also means having a chance to stay up late and sleep in.

Parents too are often relieved in having the school year conclude. This leads to a more flexible schedule around the house where everyone is able to relax and not feel like they have to rush from one place to another.

However, summer break is not as easy for children as parents might assume, particularly younger elementary school children. Children at this age look forward to school and all of the exciting activities that they get to do. It also gives them a chance to see their friends. When summer hits, all of that often goes away.

Fortunately, parents can take some steps to make it easier for children to transition into the summer break. Parents can start by laying the groundwork in preparing children for the summer break. While schools often have a countdown and other activities towards the end of the school year, the same does not typically occur at home.

Parents can start talking with their children about the plans that they have for summer. This could include any family vacations or camps that the children will be going to. Parents can get books out from the library that talk about vacations and summer breaks. These activities give children something to anticipate as the summer break comes closer.

Next, parents can anticipate that children will probably miss their friends from school. Parents should start arranging summer playdates for their children before school ends and it gets hard to get a hold of other families. They can also talk to other parents to see what summer camps the children can go to together.

Once summer break arrives, it is important to maintain some type of structure in the day. Though everyone wants some time to relax, children thrive in a structured setting. They have gotten used to a very structured school day so the transition to little to no structure can be hard for them. Parents should set up some sort of routine for the day like when meals will be served or when it is time to wake up and go to bed. The structure provided by routine gives children a sense of certainty and rhythm to the day.

In addition to adding structure to summer days, parents should start their children on some summer-long responsibilities. These responsibilities could include helping to weed the garden, feeding the family pet, or cleaning dishes after meals. This lets children remember that we all still have some responsibilities that need to be done, even on summer break.

As the summer break draws near, parents should start preparing their children for the break. Talk about what is going to be done during the break and when the children can expect to see some of their friends from school. In addition, try to create some routines so children still feel like they have some predictability in their day which includes doing some chores. Once these steps are taken, summer break will be something everyone enjoys.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Sunday on May 17, 2015

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