While there is no hard and fast rule regarding the right balance of work and play for a child over the summer months, researchers have strongly supported vacation trips and family-focused activities over the summer months as a way of strengthening familial bonds and priming children for a successful start in the following school year.
Summer is right around the corner, which means my waiting room is full of anxious parents and antsy kids pushing to finish the school year on a high note while eagerly anticipating an extended break from the classroom setting. In addition to helping families prepare for the end of the school year, many parents have asked for my input and suggestion on the most effective use of their child’s time as they plan for eight to 10 weeks of the summer holiday.
Many of us will use the holiday as an opportunity to vacation with our families – an activity that research suggests has a number of significant benefits for everyone involved. A 2009 study by Dr. Xinran Lehto and her colleagues from Purdue University in the US attempted to explore in greater detail the role that holidays and vacations have on family dynamics. Results indicated that these vacations helped to promote familial bonding, enhance communication strategies and strengthen cohesiveness among all family members. Related research studies have also noted how well-timed holidays can reduce the detrimental effects of chronic stress that often surfaces as the result of a rigorous academic school year. Thus, not only do breaks help children approach the upcoming school year with a rejuvenated mental and emotional state, but they may also become happier, healthier and more productive.
Tips for a Balanced Summer for Your Child
1) Teach beyond the classroom.
While the majority of Shanghai-based international schools do an excellent job of combining classroom teaching with in-vivo educational experiences, the summer holiday can be a wonderful time to round up the family for a learning opportunity that extends beyond the school environment. Research with your child about places around the world you may have only read about in books or seen on television, and choose a destination that you anticipate will be both enjoyable and educational.
2) Keep the structure, change the subject.
f you are looking to maintain the order and routine that a typical school day provides for your child, there are a number of camps, university-based programs and independent learning centers offering summer curriculums that extend beyond the standard core school subjects. Summertime is a great opportunity to swap classes devoted to reading, writing and mathematics in exchange for classes that involve more creative subjects like robot making or computer game design.
3) Purposefully plan for the fall.
here’s a good chance that you’ll have to make some modifications to your child’s daily schedule over the summer months. But as the summer winds down and the school year approaches, it will be important to help prime your child’s brain and body for a return to the school routine. In the final two to three weeks before school starts, make sure that your child goes to bed and wakes up at the same time they would during the school year, and that other usual daily routines are re-introduced.
Dr. Balfanz is the Senior Clinical Psychologist at American Medical Center/JJ-Premier Medical Care (AMC/JJP), a comprehensive mental and medical health service clinic for children, adolescents, adults, and families living in Shanghai. For more information on clinic services, contact Dr. Balfanz at: firstname.lastname@example.org