It’s important that your summer plans work well with your schedule and your children’s routine. A full summer schedule defeats the purpose of children who are rested, academically engaged, physically moving, and happy. Dr. Paula Rainer says “planning out a schedule will help you to have a relaxed and recharged summer as a parent.” Dr. Rainer is an assistant professor in the School of the College of Counseling, Psychology, and Social Sciences at Argosy University, Northern Virginia. She recommends that every child have 30% family time, 30% developmental goals, 30% recreation, and 10% free time during the summer.
Here are some tips on creating the perfect mix of activities and down time:
1. Time: Your children’s schedule has to match your availability during the summer. Do you have to schedule them from 9 to 5 or just a few hours per week? Do you have family vacations planned that must be included in your children’s schedule? Create a realistic schedule that fits into your time commitments.
2. Goals: When planning activities you might have different goals for each child. One child might need to improve in math; another might need to join a summer league sports team, go to social development camp; or catch up on health checkups. Remember to include some of these developmental goals for your child during the summer so they can be better prepared when the school year begins.
3. Personality: Consider your child’s personality when selecting activities. If the goal is to have a recharged and relaxed summer for your child you need to know how much family time, developmental goals, recreation, or free time each child needs to feel relaxed and recharged.
4. Family Time: The summer is a great time with a more relaxed schedule to create bonding time with each child with individual parent-child outings. This is a good time to develop a closeness to your child by just being together without any pressure or agenda. Choose activities that match your child’s interest (i.e. shopping, hiking, cooking, museums, spirituality, movies, concerts, video games). Let your child take the lead in choosing the activity and just have pure fun. Include this activity at least 30% of the time in your family schedule.
5. Development: Developmental goals are important but you have to make sure that your child does not feel like this is a punishment over the summer. If your child needs improvement in reading choose a tutoring method that is effective but not intense for your child’s development. Select online, live tutoring, or camps that will motivate your child to understand the information without stress. Sports training and summer leagues should build skills but not become draining or too intense. Remember that this goal should not exceed 30% of your child’s schedule. Health checkups are also included in the developmental category of summer activities.
6. Recreation: Include recreation activities that help your child to stay fit physically while socializing with family and friends. These activities should include walking the family pet, hikes, swimming, bike rides, dancing, walking tours of museums, gardening, and household projects. All activities that keep the body moving are included in this activity. This goal should be at least 30% of your child’s schedule
7. Free Time: Use free time for your child to learn how to relax and recharge. Free unstructured time should include taking naps, reading books, crafts, watching a favorite movie, art, and writing. Free time teaches your child that it is important to schedule a time to recharge and relax. Free time should be included at least 10% of the summer.
The percentages of family time (30%), development (30%), recreation (30%), and free time (10%) are recommendations and should be adjusted to fit your needs as a family unit.
About Paula Rainer:
Paula Rainer holds a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision and M.Ed. in Counselor Education from Virginia Tech. Dr. Rainer currently is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Virginia in private practice where she serves couples, individuals, and teenagers. Her specialty includes autism spectrum, ADHD, anxiety, depression, couples, and school refusal. She has served as both a director of counseling and middle school counselor in Prince William County, VA. Her current research agenda includes the incidence of depression and suicidal ideation in middle school and teenage youth.