Summer Vacation Situation

With school complete and summer in front of us, there can be a moment of dread when we realize that the three to eight hours a day when the kids were otherwise occupied and supervised by others, are now our responsibility again.  Some of us will send the kids to camp.  Others will do “Camp Mommy/Daddy” or go on vacation.  Still others will have their children at home “hanging out”.  Most will do some combination of these.

Whatever choice you make, summer is a terrific opportunity to encourage kids.  As with any of us, kids want to feel like their voices are heard and that they are capable and relevant people.  During the summer break, when the pressure and the rigid schedules of the school day are relaxed, there are numerous opportunities for kids to step up and try their hand at things that they normally are unable, or we are unwilling to let them do.

For example, if you haven’t yet planned a family vacation, or you would like to take the kids on a day outing, you could take the opportunity to involve the children in the decision making.  Consider sitting down with the family and brainstorming ideas of where to go.  If your children aren’t familiar with what is available, you might ask them about the type of vacation/outing they would like to go on, i.e. hiking, boating, to an activity center, to see family, historical, etc..  Once everyone agrees on the type of vacation, you could offer choices of several places that would satisfy that criteria. Then, involve them in the tasks necessary to making that outing a reality.  Ask an older child to research how to get to that place, or ask them if they would like to work on that with you.  Ask younger children to decide on what toys, snacks, videos to bring along.  In involving the children, you enable them to feel like an important part of the decision which increases their sense of self-worth.  And, you also earn the coveted “buy-in” by the kids, which should make the trip much more enjoyable.  

Another benefit to involving the children is that they will get exposure and training in a new set of skills.  They will learn how to organize a trip, listen to others and collaborate, research logistics and plan for necessities.  While at the beginning of training the child is more of an observer, soon thereafter the roles switch and thechild begins to take responsibility for pieces of the project with the parent as overseer.  Before long, the child can do things without oversight.  I have a friend whose son, by the age of 13, was savvy about accumulating and using airline miles and took responsibility for booking all the family airline reservations.

Summer is also a great time to teach kids how to assume more of the responsibility for themselves and the family.  Children as young as 5 can learn how to set a table and clear dishes.  Children 8 and older can start learning how to do basic cooking, laundry and cleanup.  They can learn how to clean a bathroom, sew a button, spray the table or make a menu.  They can learn how to make their own lunch — a skill which will come in very handy when they start school again.  While the objective is not to create Cinderellas, the summer is a great opportunity to enable children to learn how to contribute meaningfully to the family and become more self-sufficient.

Needless to say, training and engaging kids takes a good deal of time.  And while it is summer vacation for the kids, it might not be for the parents.  So, work on one skill at a time and be patient — with yourself and them.  And, employ your child’s creative brain in decision making discussions as often as possible.  Then, watch for the results: the blessing of engaged and self-reliant kids.

Laura Goldman