By this time of year, even parents are looking forward to a break from school – getting up early to make lunches, driving to and from extra curricular activities and dealing with homework hassles. However, we also know that the long break from school during the summer months means that we might just hear “I’m bored” a few times too many.
With this in mind, many parents choose to enroll their children in summer activities – day and overnight camps for example. Also to plan for activities that the whole family can enjoy together – day trips or extended vacations. But how much is too much? And how little may lead to a summer of whining and nagging?
Not every child wants to go to camp, but for some this may not be an option – especially if you’re working and need your child to be taken care of. If your child is a reluctant camper, make sure to include him or her when deciding which camps to enroll in. There are so many options for day camps – from those that offer a variety of different activities each day – mostly outdoors – to specialty camps that offer a specific focus, such as dance and drama – mostly indoors. You can also choose between having your child attend one camp for an extended period or choosing several camps that run for shorter periods.
If you feel confident your child will enjoy an overnight experience and he or she is not traumatized by the mere mention of this, go slow at first. Make sure that the camp offers a beginner program of a shorter length so that your child can get a sampling of being away from home and feel good about having done so successfully. I’m not a big fan of sending one’s child to camp for the entire summer unless he or she has a passion for doing so – and even then, try to balance his or her time away with spending time reconnecting as a family.
If your child is old enough to stay at home alone for short or longer periods of time, and asks to do so while you are away during the day, be wary of doing so if the days spent alone are many or longer than three to four hours at a stretch.
Even if your child enjoys this freedom initially, he or she will likely tire of it before the summer is even half way through and then you might be scrambling to find activities to keep him or her occupied. Also, consider how comfortable you are and how appropriate it may or may not be for your child to be unsupervised and independently responsible for filling his or her days. Is it appropriate for him to be able to call friends and organize get togethers without your involvement?
Is it okay for her to spend every day hanging out at the mall or in the park without any adult supervision?
Think of family summer projects such as organizing photo albums, de-cluttering your home and giving contents to charity or planting a vegetable garden, along with individual projects that have been put aside during the school year so that when your child says he or she is bored, you can direct him or towards helping with those.
Don’t feel responsible for always having to come up with a plan for helping your child escape boredom. Give him or her credit for coming up with creative ideas on his or her own.
My opinion is that because summer holidays are so long, its best to find a way to plan ahead for them and to explore a balance between structured activities for your child alone, structured activities for your family together and down time for everyone. So, out of 10 weeks, for example, a nice balance might be four to five weeks (spaced out may be best) of structured activities, interspersed with weeks that have less structure.
Sara Dimerman is registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario and provides counselling to individuals, couples and families. Find out more at www.helpmesara.com