When kids end another year of school, most are happy to be finished. However, within a few days of summer, I hear from parents that their children are moping and appear moody and miserable. Parents shake their heads in frustration wondering what the heck their kids are unhappy about; school’s out, right? Parents tend to have an expectation that their children will be instantaneously happy because the end of school means no homework, no tests, no early mornings, no more sitting for six hours, and recess all day, with more privileges and later nights. And, yet, many kids will behave as if automatic freedom doesn’t easily translate into automatic happiness, leaving parents confused and frustrated. In reality, many kids experience a “letdown” in their transition from the school year to summertime. The overscheduled nature of children’s lives has resulted in their physiology becoming accustomed to living in a state equivalent to “flight or fright,” making it a big challenge when they go from school to summer. Kids can mentally look forward to summer, and yet, psychologically and physiologically, they need time to adjust to the change. How quickly and effectively they transition from an overscheduled school year to a slower-paced summer depends a lot on how a parent helps them manage this transition.
Here are some tips that can make a potentially bumpy passage from school to summer smooth from the outset.
1. Know your child’s temperament. Different children respond differently to the change of pace from fast to slow. Some children will adjust easily with less structure and activity, while others will have a difficult time. When a parent is prepared to respond to his or her child’s individual needs and temperament, the transition occurs easily and without event.
2. Talk with them about their feelings. Let them know that if they are feeling out of sorts, there is nothing wrong with them; they are adjusting from school to summer in a manner that is normal and natural. Encourage them to vocalize their feelings of boredom or disinterest as a way of moving forward and adjusting.