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Planning ahead for a successful summer is important for the mental health of the child and parent alike. Many parents wait until the very last minute to schedule activities for their child creating problems with scheduling and camps filling up quickly. Another common pitfall is either allowing the child free reign about their summer activities or, on the other hand, the parent micromanaging the activities of their child’s summer. Parents need to both ask themselves what they believe is in the best interest of their child over the summer as well as consulting with their child to determine their understood needs as well.
Ideally, summertime should be a balance between scheduled activities and play for the child. Time should be scheduled for activities such as camps, academic remediation if necessary, and plenty of time for rest and play with friends. Summer is also a time to try new skills that often cannot be attempted during the school year because of too many time constraints (i.e. taking up a musical instrument). Finally, summer is also an important time for families to spend time together on vacation or merely enjoying each other’s company.
Referencing activities, the attentive parent should be the one to introduce the concept of a balanced summer to their child and then discuss options with them allowing the child some choice in the type of scheduled activities they will participate within. (i.e. the type of camp they may attend; a type of sport to learn). Children and adolescents are not capable of doing this alone. Once determined, it is important to find programs which are organized, have a low staff to camper ratio, have good reputations, and are importantly, fun.
Balancing fun camps and activities with some academic or artistic activity helps keeps the child’s mind in learning shape and often makes the transition back to school in the Fall an easier transition. Research shows that a scheduled and balanced summer also leads to higher self-esteem, greater productivity, less anxiety and opposition, and more harmony around the house. Parents following these recommendations are less anxious as well.
Dr. Keith Kanner is a Licensed and Board Certified Clinical Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychologist and Psychoanalyst. In addition to a full-time private practice in Rancho Santa Fe, California, he is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine at the University of California San Diego where he teaches both human development and also trains medical students how to better understand and relate to their patients. He also serves as the Director of Clinical Counseling for La Jolla Country Day School in La Jolla, California, and is a Clinical Professor at The San Diego Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. Dr. Kanner also sits on the National Board of Directors for Kids Korps USA, which is the largest organization in the country that teaches children and adolescents the importance of volunteering to help the community at large. As a father of three children, he is also a dedicated baseball, football, and soccer coach.