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6 Steps to a Balanced Summer Break

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Summer break provides an opportunity for our kids to catch a break from the daily school routine. Even with the hustle and bustle of the school routine removed, there remains a programmed temptation of being “somewhere” every minute. For many parents, breaks from school are those precious opportunities to cram in all of the extra activities that don’t quite fit into the day-to-day of the school year. We sign our kids up for camps or tutoring or we’ve attempted to figure out how to provide our kids with an epic summer break tale for Fall. It’s a valiant effort to try to make the most of every moment of our summer break. But isn’t the purpose of summer break to return to school in the Fall refreshed and ready to learn? So, how can we make the most of our summer, balancing learning and scheduled activities with downtime and fun?

The summer weeks are the perfect opportunity to encourage your child to pursue their interests, discover new possibilities, and recover from the school routine. As parents, it’s really important that we don’t overschedule our kids, but instead allow them moments to connect with us, engage in unrestricted play, or even sit with their boredom for a while. As you to think about your summer plans, use the handy acronym, “S.U.M.M.E.R.”:

  • Sleep, sleep, sleep.
  • Unlock your inner curiosity.
  • Make time for friends.
  • Make room for play.
  • Engage in family discussion.
  • Read a variety of books.

“S.U.M.M.E.R.” is a starting point for helping parents to provide balanced activities for summer break. Consider asking yourself these questions: Can I provide my kids with more time to sleep and rest during the summer? What opportunities are available to my kids to look into interests that they could not pursue during the school year? Can they pick up a new skill, learn a new language, or just read up on sharks because that’s what they love? Am I helping to nurture their social emotional development by allowing time for friends? Are they getting to play outside, online, or on sports teams? Can we use this summer to make meaningful connections as a family? What can we talk about that reinforces our bond or our values? Can we use ebooks and the library to beat Summer Slide? The answers to all of these “S.U.M.M.E.R” questions is (hopefully) “YES” and can be accomplished with setting a few small goals.

For our family, we set goals for our break centered around “S.U.M.M.E.R.”. Of course school-related work is critical to starting the next year on the right foot, but I want to make sure we balance that with adequate hours of sleep, and fun, family-centered activities. I ask the kids a few questions: “What non-school skill do we want to get better at?”, “What do we need to work on from our report cards?”, “Who do we want to hang out with?”, and “Where do we want to go?”. From these questions we create a list of goals and possibilities together. These four family questions also serve as a continuous check in throughout the summer to ensure we stay true to our aspirations. And it also helps your kids get better at goal-setting, a skill they’ll need throughout life.

Once we establish our short list of summer goals, objectives, activities, and travel, we leave room for flexibility and unscheduled time. We put no pressure on ourselves to have an “epic” summer break story when we return from break in the Fall. This allows us to make the most of every moment we have together, living to the fullest. Some years we take long road trips while other years we spend hours at the pool. But for us, what we experience during summer is not as important as how we feel when school begins in September. Have we deviated enough from the daily grind in these three months that we are ready and excited about jumping back into our regularly scheduled nine month routine? Come Fall, if you’re kids are looking forward to the fresh new school year, it’s a good sign the answer is yes.

Every family will establish their own definition of what a purposeful summer break experience entails. It’s very tempting to “get it all in” before the summer ends, but there’s always next year. Maybe save a few of those scheduled activities for the following year and leave space for the entire family to breathe. As student stress levels elevate, I encourage parents to leverage summer break in a way that allows for the time and space for your kids to recover. Sleep in when you can. Encourage curiosity and exploration of ideas and the world around you. Make time for friends. Embrace boredem. Make sure to incorporate group and individual play time. Engage in meaningful family discussions and reconnect with your kids. Read tons of books and become regulars at your library. Keep “S.U.M.M.E.R.” in mind all break long and chances are when the Fall comes around, you’ll feel rested and ready to get back into that routine again. I hope that your family has a balanced, purposeful, and productive summer!

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