How To Cut Stress in Kids’ Transitions from School to Summer

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The end of the school year can ban bring both fun and challenge for both parents and children. Some parents find it easy to transition their children to beloved and familiar settings such as local summer programs, day camp, or sleep-away camp.  But others experience stress and scramble to find appropriate options for their children that are in sync with parents’ work schedules and daycare needs.

For children, too, summer’s arrival can be a mixed bag. Particularly for kids who have become comfortable with familiar school-year schedules and formed emotional connections with their teachers and peers, the transition to summer can be stressful and destabilizing. For others, though, vacation comes as a great opportunity and a welcome break from the demands and busy schedule of the school year. Every child is different and each experiences summer vacation in a unique way according to their unique needs and perceptions.

A few tips to help parents transition their kids to the summer months:

  1. Give children a voice in choosing their summer activities. We often forget that simply asking a child can be the best way to determine the child’s optimal options for the season. Children fare better and are more productive when they are engaged in activities that bring them joy and that connect to their personal motivation, as opposed to doing what adults think is best for them.
  2. Resist the temptation to overprogram your child’s summer. The commodity in shortest supply for today’s busy families is downtime. Children, just like adults, need unstructured, relaxing hours to decompress, think and be creative without constraints.
  3. Schedule time to play and have fun together. The scarcity of playtime has become such an important health issue that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that pediatricians prescribe play for all children. Play is not a luxury, but something that builds foundations of physical, developmental and emotional health for children.
  4. Ask questions to prepare your child for the transition: What will you miss most now that the school year is over? Who will you miss most and why? Giving children the chance to acknowledge and voice what’s on their minds can help make the transition less stressful.
  5. Schedule get-togethers with special friends early in the summer. If your child has special friends at school, arrange a playdate within the first two weeks after school ends to lessen the stress of the interrupted relationship.
  6. Maintain connections with trusted adults. If your child is attached to his or her teacher or a classroom aide, ask if your child can send that person a letter, drawing or email to buffer the emotional loss that come with the school year’s end.

If we keep these tips in mind, summer can provide a wonderful break from overscheduling, academic stress and parents’ constant efforts to provide kids with an “optimal” environment. It offers a chance to slow down the fast train, connect on a calm level, and nurture your child’s relationships with you and others.  Brain science tells us that these connections provide the main pathway for children to develop psychological resilience, flexibility, and healthy social and emotional development.

Happy summer!

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