Summer Time in Quarantine
Summer is upon us and school is finally over! While kids may be overjoyed to not have to spend their days on school zoom calls and completing assignments, parents may be concerned about how to fill up that time for their kids.
Parents may typically rely on summer camps, outdoor activities, or travelling to pass the time. During these uncertain times with COVID-19, many of these possibilities have been taken away, imposing a feeling of stress within families. From how to manage and prepare kids for the change, to activities and strategies to try, this blog post will try to address different ways to navigate the challenges of a COVID-19 summer vacation.
Before diving into strategies or ideas on how to navigate the summer, it is important to note that kids will be bored. With parents working from home, and being unavailable during times in which their kids would have been at camp or otherwise occupied, many will find themselves trying to save their kids from boredom, and maybe themselves from interruptions during work hours. The reality of the matter is that, with minimal options available and the days blending together, your kids will be bored, and that is okay! There is only so much to be done and some days will be better than others. As we make the transition into navigating this challenging summer, the first step is to accept that your kids will be bored at times, and you as parents are doing everything you can to make their days enjoyable!
With that in mind, let’s get into some ideas that can make this summer as enjoyable as possible!
Talk to your kids! As with any big changes that can occur for the family, an experience of a totally different summer due to the impact of COVID-19 is a topic that should be explored. Until now, your kids have seen the impact that the virus has had on their lives. From completing the school year from home, to seeing their parents work from home, life has already changed so much in a little amount of time. It is important to also discuss how the summer will be different from the ones before due to the ongoing battle with the virus.
Empathizing with frustrations! In addition to talking to your kids about the change, and hearing their thoughts and feelings on the matter during the initial conversation about this summer, it is also important to allow them the space to express their frustration, sadness, and anger at their experience as the days go on. Some days your kids will be occupied, and on other days they will find everything repetitive and there is nothing to look forward to. It is important that in those times, your kids can feel comfortable in sharing those feelings with you, without the fear of receiving anger in return. This is a time that will be difficult for the whole family, and taking the time for empathy will help with de-escalating the stressful feelings that it can bring.
Celebrate the end of the school year! An important factor in helping your kids with feeling more excited about the summer, is to make sure that they feel like summer is here! In other words, due to the transition to online schooling for the rest of the school year, kids already feel like they have been home for a while and going into the summer doesn't feel different or new, and this can contribute to early feelings of frustration and boredom. A way to mark the end of the school year is to celebrate your child’s success over the school year with a small event. Even if kids are not in transitional years of school and not graduating, it can still be effective to have a small party or event with the immediate family members at home to help kids feel the same feelings they typically would on the last day of school. This can take the form of baking a cake and dressing up and taking photos, to spending the day talking about the school year and all the accomplishments they have had.
Schedules and routines! At this point in the COVID-19 process, many parents have taken to using schedules for their kids during the school year, to keep them on track with their classes and homework. This strategy is also very effective for the summer. While the kids are free from responsibility, parents still need to be able to work from home and using a schedule can help them create a balance in the home during this time. The schedule can look different for each family and there isn’t one way that works for everyone. A way to have kids feel involved and excited for this schedule is to sit down as a family and work on it together. Kids can come up with ideas and activities that they can do throughout their days and contribute to the creation of the schedule. The times in the schedule can be in accordance with the parents’ work and free time in order to make things run smoother in the household. Once completed, it is important to place the schedule somewhere visible and accessible for the whole family.
Social distance activities and gatherings! By this point in the year, many have found their balance with social distancing and how it can look for their family. During the summer vacation, especially since social interactions have minimized considerably as many kids are no longer in camps or playing freely with friends, it is important to find ways for kids to still socialize with their peers. This can take on the format of zoom parties and calls, which can also include playing games or watching movies with friends in addition to just chatting and catching up. For some families it can also be social distance play-dates with trusted friends and families in open and outdoor spaces. The matter of social distancing is one that each family can approach differently based on their circumstances and comfort level; however, at the end of the day, it is important for kids to still feel connected with their peers and to continue to socialize over the summer.
Physical Activity! As a part of the routine for the summer, parents can incorporate times in the day for some form of physical activity. Some kids are more active than others, and so this process may look different for each family and motivating kids can be difficult. As a way to help with the process of keeping kids active, parents can set boundaries with kids about having a certain amount of physical activity throughout the week, and allow their kids the control to choose what that physical activity can be. Additionally, parents can also lead by example by engaging in those physical activities with their kids and make it a part of their family time and can include things like going to the park or on a hike.
Special time! Special time is a time spent with the family without any other distractions. This can take on the form of the whole family doing an activity together, or each individual parent spending one on one time with their child. The key factor is to make sure your child feels that your time and attention is fully theirs and you will not be running off to do more work, answer a phone call, or check on the stove while you are spending this time with them. It is important to set aside a time like this throughout the week with your child based on your schedule. The reason being that during this summer, your child will be home watching you work from home and spending days being busy. By making this time with your kids, they can then anticipate the upcoming special time with you, therefore taking away from feelings of isolation, loneliness, and lack of attention in the times you are otherwise occupied.
Using online resources! During the COVID-19 pandemic, the term screen time has taken on a new form. It no longer only refers to watching TV or playing games. Screens have become essential in other ways such as learning and staying connected with the world. It is important to extend the benefits into the summer even if kids are no longer in school. This can include, finding summer camps that have taken their services online, or classes such as dance or arts that are provided virtually. Even online learning that relates to more academic components such as math and reading can be found online. By enrolling kids into these courses, it can not only provide them with something to do, but it can also contribute to the structure of their summer schedule and routines that the family is trying to establish.
As public services slowly open up and the transition into a community space begins, more options may open up as time goes by. In the meantime, these may be some useful strategies to keep the family happy, healthy, and occupied.