Wednesday, May 22, 2013

House Rules! Set Expectations NOW to Ensure a Sane Summer

by Mikey Keating Smith, M. Ed

Summer is almost here, and with it may come the urge to throw rigid routines out the window. Research (and experience) shows, though, that most kids thrive when they have clear expectations and routines, even in the summer months. Parent Ellen Dunlap used to greet each summer vacation with mixed feelings. On the one hand, she was excited to be free of the grind of the school year and able to spend more relaxed, quality time with her son, Ryan. On the other hand, however, she dreaded the onset of Ryan’s summer ‘personality shift.’ “After 3 or 4 days I started to see that he was short-tempered and grumpy,” Ellen says. “Most of his responses had an underlying tone of annoyance and he appeared to look and feel frustrated and uncomfortable.”

As her son got older, the pattern of behavior continued. Each year after the initial excitement about the summer break wore off, her son’s personality would abruptly change. His increasingly surly behavior put a damper on summer fun for everyone in the household. Then, she says, she had an ‘aha moment’: “It took me a little while to figure out the root of his frustration. Although he will argue otherwise, my son really craves the comfort that structure brings.”

Ryan is not alone. Experts agree that while children and adolescents do benefit from the downtime the summer brings, downtime should be balanced with structured activities and clear expectations. While some children do fine without a set schedule, many others struggle with the excessive free time and lack of routine the summer break often brings with it. Otherwise happy and well-adjusted kids might begin acting defiant and downright rude, and you might notice arguments increasing among siblings. Kids with too much downtime also may experiment with risky behaviors and wind up getting into trouble both at home and with friends. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Summer Reading. . . For PARENTS! by Mikey Keating Smith, M. Ed

On the last day of school, the one item in many kids’ backpacks is the dreaded summer homework packet. More and more schools are hoping to fight summer slide by assigning kids reading and math work over the summer, and usually several books to be read. What about parents, though? What better way to encourage our kids to be lifelong learners than by setting a positive example by taking on some summer reading ourselves?

Since summer tends to be a bit less stressful than the jam-packed school year, it’s a great time to pick up a new book. You can take one on vacation, suggest one for your book club, or, even better, read one as a family. This summer, though, how about making that book one that can help you better understand your child and the world he or she inhabits? There are hundreds of books on parenting and adolescents, but because everyone’s time is precious, below is a sampling of well-reviewed books on a variety of topics. Hopefully one will make your summer reading list!