While there are still a few weeks to go of the School Holidays, the current pandemic is making it difficult to do what we normally do during summer vacation. Travelling and meeting up with a big group of friends are unfortunately not on the agenda but there are still ways to safely take advantage of the break and return to school and work refreshed!
1. Set summer goals
One of the easiest ways to give meaning to your kid’s summer holiday is to encourage them to accomplish something that feels worthwhile. Generally, it works best to set a range of goals—some daily (read for 15 minutes), some weekly (help cook dinner) and some for the whole summer (learning to ride a bike). Goals can also encompass a range of skills and ideas, including personal, social, academic and community service goals.
Once you have compiled a list of goals, make a checklist so kids can check off items as they’re completed, helping them see their progress. At the end of the summer, they can look back at all they’ve learned and accomplished!
2. Find ways to connect to friends
For many kids, summer is about free time and friends, and a summer spent without that feels pointless and frustrating. It’s important to help your children stay connected to friends in whatever ways feel appropriate for your family.
For some, that means using video conferencing apps to call friends or using Netflix Party to watch movies while chatting with friends. For others, it means limiting social interaction with one or two “safe” families and minimising exposure.
Peer relationships and safety are both important right now, so try to find a balance between helping your child feel connected and what feels right for your family.
3. Create family rituals
In general, activities gain meaning when they are about something more than just ourselves—we find meaning in tasks when we see a connection to something bigger.
One important way to help children feel connected to a higher purpose is to strengthen their identity as a part of your family—and rituals help kids do just that!
Summer, with all its endless time together, is the perfect time to create family rituals. Make Friday night “family movie night” and let children take turns picking a movie for everyone. Make Saturday morning your standard time for a family walk and check out different places to visit together. You could also have everyone cook dinner together once a week or make time for board games each night after dinner.
Choose whatever works best for your family and remember that having rituals is far more important than what you actually do. The most important thing is to develop connections and consistency, both of which are so important right now.
4. Create daily schedules
Another way to make summer feel more meaningful is to build a structure and plan for each day. Many kids feel overwhelmed and lost when their days are completely open so creating a schedule (even a loose one!) can help give them direction and meaning.
Your schedule can reflect the more relaxed nature of summer (later bed times and wake times, free time before getting dressed in the morning, and so on), but it’s still important to have daily expectations. Build in a predictable schedule for waking, dressing, meals and exercise.
And because it’s summer, build in plenty of chances for free time, while ensuring the major transitions of the day are included. When kids have daily expectations, it lends a sense of purpose to their days.
5. Build self-help skills
Finally, give meaning to summer by helping children learn how to be more independent. One of the great gifts of summer is time. You can let your 6-year-old spend 20 minutes tying his shoes because there’s no school bus to miss! Summer is the perfect time to let your child master a new skill that he or she will have for a lifetime.
Summers often feel long and lazy, but this summer could feel especially long since families have already spent the past few months cooped up together. Rather than viewing the next remaining weeks as an endless battle against boredom, work toward giving your children’s summer a sense of purpose and meaning—it might just be their best summer yet.