School is almost out and that can be a relief for many families.  During the school months, getting children up and out of the house on time, making special arrangements for after school or sick days, getting homework done, and so on is hectic.  Summer can be a welcome and valuable break from these struggles, but of course has its own challenges and opportunities.

Summer is a great time for family activities.  It is beneficial for a family to have at least one activity in which family members are together.  How expensive the event is, how much excitement the event brings to the child, and how many souvenirs are bought are not important.   Family activities can increase a child’s psychological and behavioral well-being.  Going to a sporting event, a children’s museum, a community fair, a July 4th local parade are great examples of activities you can engage in with your child.

Benefits from family activities not only stem from the time together, but also establishing something that can become regular.  A break from the rigorous school year routine is definitely needed, however consider making something else in the summer regular and predictable.  Establish something as simple as shopping together, reading together each night, or even cooking a meal together routinely in the summer.  This predictable event or routine has enormous benefits to the child and family life, reduces stress, and improves family relationships.

Summer is also a good time to provide a memorable experience that may have lasting influences.  It is surprising what becomes memorable.  This does not mean the child has to have some very unusual experience.  It should be something fun with an element of education, or exposure to something out of the everyday experience.  A trip to the zoo or animal sanctuary, going to an auction or flea market, seeing a movie about something interesting are just some examples.  There is something educational about new experiences, that cannot be reproduced as well by schools.

Most parents might just be interested in the break that summer provides and that is great all by itself.  National surveys show that children, adolescents, and adults in the US often experience a great deal of stress.  Stress is not just psychological, but can have detrimental biological effects such as making people more vulnerable to illness.  So by all means, do not feel obligated to create a set summer schedule if that will cause stress for you or your child.  Free time, down time, time together, and just enjoying yourselves are all wonderful.  Our mission at The Yale Parenting Center is “Making Families Stronger.”  We send this newsletter to you in that spirit and in hopes that you will have a fun and stress-free summer.

Quick Tips for a Fun and Constructive Summer

Ease up a little.  There is so much structure during the school year.  Allow summer to include some down time for your kids.

Remember to read.  Reading to your child or having them read on their own is one of the best ways to continue learning.  Make sure summer reading is fun, and that you allow your children to choose the books, magazines, and comic books  they enjoy.

Create an enduring experience.  Take a trip somewhere special that might introduce a skill or interest later in life.  Maybe it’s a trip to an art museum, sporting event, or historical area.

Make family time.  Summer is a great time to get in some much needed family time.  Do something together as a family.  Take a hike together, go to the beach, or just play a game as a family.