Preparing Your Kids (And You) For Summer Fun

Written by Dr. John Carosso, Psy.D.

Just around the corner

I know it’s only April, but you and I both know that summer recess will be here before ya know it, so best to start planning and preparing now. There is lots to think about, and would hate to have you awaken that fateful day in early June with the incessant “I’m bored”, or loud screaming that typically accompanies siblings being home together all day. Oh, the joys of summer.


For the OCD among us

I know it may sound a bit OCD-ish, but a very effective way to plan for the summer, and to get every drop of fun you can, is to get a calendar and plan the entire summer week-by-week, if not day-by-day. You may have some day and week-long camps that you can easily plug-in; the annual summer vacation to the beach or Disney, your kid’s sporting events, the trip to Aunt Rhoda’s… Once you have those regular events scheduled, you can start getting creative. Oh, by the way, if your child has special needs, contact the Park (Disney…) ahead of time to request a pass to avoid long wait-times.


Creative?

Yea, creative. I’ll bet your family has a bucket-list of fun and ‘different’ things you all would like to do, but haven’t. Often, we don’t do fun things because we don’t plan for them. So, plan for them and get that small flower garden planted, bake some cookies, go camping in the backyard, go on that day-trip to Gettysburg, project a movie on your garage door and have a homemade drive-in, do some star-gazing, start an annual neighborhood kickball tournament and, of course, can’t forget about getting a net (not a wiffle bat) and catching lightening bugs.


Not all of it has to be “fun”

You may include some things in the summer agenda that aren’t necessarily fun, but are definitely worthwhile. Summer is an excellent time to get your kids boned-up on things such as math, writing skills, or reading. In fact, if your child has special education services, talk to the Principal now about whether your child qualifies for Extended School Year (ESY). Also, teach the kiddos how to do various chores around the house (how to wash the family car…) or do a family project such as cleaning out that garage. In fact, sometimes those ‘chores’, if done as a family, can be quite a bonding experience especially when the final outcome (a really clean and organized garage) is achieved by everyone’s hard work. If your child is on the spectrum, the summer can be a time you may be a bit more indulgent in your child’s obsessive interests (sharks, star wars…) but only after nonpreferred is done, and don’t overindulge. Also, in the same vein, there can be a tendency to isolate and avoid social encounters; be sure to incorporate supervised social encounters into the calendar, and you may find it helpful to plan trips to the zoo, local library, autism-friendly theatre, and bookstore. Also, don’t forget, for all kiddos, daily running around and lots of physical activity.


Childcare / Babysitting / Camps

Babysitters and childcare tends to get filled-up pretty quick, so don’t delay in connecting with that local teenager who does a great job with your kids, or that daycare provider who comes highly recommended by your friends. Reserve the spots and make deposits, based on that schedule mentioned earlier. Also, start now to reserve spots for summer camps; they fill-up very quickly. If your child has special needs and will be attending a therapeutic camp, call your child’s casemanager for an updated list of camps, and contact your child’s psychologist to obtain a current prescription. If you want to enroll your special needs child into a typical camp or activity, and believe he’ll need individualized attention, you may be able to obtain wraparound services (Therapeutic Staff Support) to provide such attention. Contact this psychologist to further discuss this option.


Daily Routine

Summer is time for relaxation, being ‘laid back’, and being more flexible and free-flowing. However, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Maintaining some semblance of routine can be helpful, especially if it involves getting past the less favored tasks (chores, academics) to move-on to more fun, sun-filled activities. If your child has special needs, then maintaining a consistent routine is even more important. In fact, be sure he knows about the schedule, what to expect, and answer any questions ahead of time. A picture schedule is also advised.


As the Summer Winds-Down

I hate to write of the summer ending when it hasn’t even begun, but keep in mind the importance of getting more and more into a school routine as the summer comes to a close. The last week of summer should be very close to the school routine in terms of bedtime and wake-up.

Okay, that about wraps it up for now. Have a wonderful summer!!!

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (cpcwecare.com), a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh (autismcenterofpittsburgh.com) and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (dyslexiatreaters.com).