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Why Structure is Important for Kids in the Summer

Schools out!  No more structure, right?  Well…. about that…..When school ends for the year, parents and children alike are ready for a break from homework, extracurricular activities, and other demands that come with the academic calendar.  However, it doesn’t take long for parents to hear, “I’m bored,” or to be come concerned with siblings fighting or the endless need to control screen time.

Turns out, although short breaks are needed, structure during the whole year, even summer is very important to children.  Children who have ADHD, anxiety, behavior and/or social concerns, and learning difficulties especially need structure added to their summer.

Why is structure important?

  • To prevent children from summer learning loss or the summer slump.  When kids “lose” what they have learned during the prior school year, it takes them longer to be ready to learn new material at the beginning of the next school year.   However, when children attend enriching camps, go on educational vacations, and have access to books during the summer they can make academic gains.
  • Children do better when they know what to expect out of the day.
  • Children who have clear expectations for what they need to do, also function better.This is especially true for children with special needs.
  • Children follow directions better and fight less with siblings when there is structure as opposed to endless free time.

How to put structure into summer days

  • Designate specific time for learning each day.
  • Provide children with learning activities outside of skill drills.
  • Promote reading for fun. Allow for free reading time and books.  Help your child find books that interest him or her.  Check out some of the new graphic novels for kids.
  • Participate in your library’s summer reading challenge. Many programs offer fun programs during the week and in the evenings and on the weekends.
  • Decide if you want your child to have a tutor or attend a camp to work on reading and math skills.
  • Reward school work time with incentives such as a trip to the park or bowling.
  • Put up a written weekly schedule that lists all activities including academic times, lessons, and free time.
  • Make time for creative activities such as art.
  • Add in activities that build new skills such as a weekly cooking time with dad.
  • Have an expectation that your child will engage in chores over the summer.
  • Set the expectation that children will complete chores and school work prior to screen time.

It is possible to have a summer with structure that promotes learning and have fun!  Tips for sharing your expectations with your kids

  • Place the weekly schedule in a common place.
  • Have a special dinner or snack to kick-off your summer plans.
  • Explain expectations using “first-then.”  For example, first you need to do your math work, then you can ride your bike.
  • Try to approach talking about your expectations and the schedule with genuine enthusiasm.If you are immediately dreading school work time because you think it will be a battle, your children will pick up on your attitude, and it will be a battle.  Instead, focus on how well prepared your kids will be for school in the fall. Or think about all the cool adventures they will have when they are spending more time reading.
Jennifer Luria

Author: Jennifer Luria

Jennifer Luria is a highly skilled child and adolescent psychotherapist. Ms. Luria holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Iowa. She was employed by the Center for Disabilities and Development at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for 8 years, and recently has joined the staff at Hope Springs. Ms. Luria has a very warm and compassionate style, which she balances with the ability to effectively set goals and bring about results with her patients. She is also certified in Parent Child Interaction Therapy, as well as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Certified Therapist). She is currently accepting new patients.

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