By Dr. Vicki Panaccione
There tends to be a lot of stress during the school year, as families juggle homework, extracurricular activities, and early bedtimes. But the summer offers a chance to slow down, be less scheduled and more laid back.
Now, you still probably have to still get to your jobs on time, drop the kids at day camp or leave last-minute instruction as you dash off to work. However, the evenings and weekends can be less harried and more enjoyable.
For those of you home with your children, summer can be a great opportunity to get to know them better and engage in fun activities. However, if they are older, you may actually see less of them than during the school year; they will probably sleep until noon and hang out with friends. Let them be; their biological clock is ticking into adolescence.
Camp can be a wonderful way to spend part of the summer - or a nightmare. I have seen sports kids hate art camp, artistic kids detest tennis camp and outdoor kids despise computer camp.
If you are sending your children to camps and other activities, please make sure that they have some say in what they would like to do. There is a fine balance between introducing your children to new and varied activities vs. not taking into account who they are and what their interests might be. Kids should not be dreading their camp experiences.
Summer may give you an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with your children. Kids like to spend individual time with each parent. Whenever possible, choose an activity that you both have an interest in.
If it is difficult to find a shared activity, then the child's choice (within reason) should apply. Remember, this is time for your child to have you all to herself, enjoying your company and sharing her interest with you.
Family activities are important, as well. Can you remember the last time you took a family vacation? Can you remember the last time you knew the meaning of the word vacation? If it has been too long, try to find a little getaway from the phones, the laundry, the bills and the barking dogs.
It can be simple or elaborate, inexpensive or a month's salary. It really doesn't matter. A couple of days at an inexpensive hotel where the kids can enjoy just swimming in a pool can be an excellent choice.
Or how about just running away for the day together (with the kids, I mean) and having a picnic, hitting tennis balls, taking the kids to a movie and pizza?
And what about breaking some rules? Start off dinner with dessert! Have a campout in the family room! Cuddle up together in your bed and stay up late watching a movie or two!
Make sure your children also have other kinds of activities in their summer schedule.
First is active, outdoor, unstructured playtime so they are not spending all their time in the house. While time to vegetate is important, staying indoors should not be the way your children spend their whole summer.
They may want to watch TV or play with their Game Boy, X-Box, Nintendo, Game Cube, computer games (just how many systems does your child have?) for hours and hours. However, it is important to limit their time, as well as the kind of games they play. Please follow the game ratings on the boxes. Ditto for movies!
The second activity is a quiet period to read, journal, color, etc. Help your children find the pleasure in reading by taking them to the library or allowing them to get magazines or comic books.
The idea is to have them learn to enjoy reading, not to have it forced down their throats. It is important for children to learn how to spend time alone, and equally important that they learn that they do not need to be entertained or stimulated every waking moment of the day.
Clinical psychologist, Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D., has a specialized practice in Melbourne, working exclusively with children, adolescents and families.
To contact Dr. Vicki regarding her workshops, seminars or publications, call (321)-722-9001 or visit www.askdrvicki.com.