My Kids Loved Summer Camp. This Is Why I Made Them Quit.

While the ACA accreditation is a valuable credential, it is no replacement for doing your homework about the camps you enroll your kids in.

My kids could not have been happier as they splashed in the water, playing with their friends.
I felt like I was going to throw up.
I’d dropped them off at their first day of summer camp that morning, thrilled to have four hours to myself. When I’d enrolled them in the camp run by the gym where I work out and teach group fitness, I asked about the ratio of adults to kids in the pool. They told me it would be two adults with a maximum of 15 kids, plus a lifeguard.
“Isn’t that kind of a low ratio?” I’d asked. The camp was for kids ages two-and-a-half and up. The pool has an infinity edge that gradually extends to a depth of three feet. The camp director, a mom herself, assured me they’d always done it this way and it had been fine. She encouraged me to sit by the pool and watch if I wanted. Perhaps I was being overly protective, I thought. Obviously, the other parents didn’t seem to have a problem with it.
My kids are three and five years old and neither of them can swim well. Though I pride myself on being a pretty hands-off (read: lazy) parent, when it comes to water safety, I don’t take chances. On the first day of camp I sat poolside and watched during swim time. My initial feeling of, “I can’t see how this is going to work” progressed to, “Oh my god this is a total shit show” to, “I don’t know how much longer I can stand to watch this before I start hyperventilating.”
There were 13 campers, many of them under five years old, two adults, and zero lifeguards. Plus there were kids with their parents who were not attending camp swimming. I could hardly keep my eyes on my own two kids through the sea of people. At times, one camp staffer would take a kid to the restroom, leaving one adult in charge of 12 kids.
I waited for them to blow a whistle and have the kids buddy up like we used to do at summer camp when I was a kid. That never happened. I waited, my eyes darting wildly to keep track of my girls until finally, they took the kids out of the water. At that point, I gathered my things, went to the locker room, sequestered myself in a bathroom stall and exhaled. Tears of frustration and anxiety spilled out while I choked back a little sob.
Was I overreacting? I didn’t think so. But when I brought my concerns to one of the administrators of the gym, they were brushed off. I was offered only reassurance that the staff was extremely responsible. “I’m sure they are,” I countered. “I just don’t think there are enough of them for all of the kids to be safe in the pool.”
To meet the American Camping Association’s (ACA) standards, camps must adhere to minimum staff ratios, which pertain to overall supervision, but not specifically to aquatic supervision. While these ratios vary according to age, requirements change according to whether the children are on land or in the water is at each camp’s discretion. ACA-accredited day camps require a minimum ratio of 1-to-6 for children ages five and under, 1-to-8 for children ages six to eight, and 1-to-10 for children ages nine to 14. Ratios are slightly higher for overnight campers: 1-to-5 for children ages five and under, 1-to-6 for children six to eight, and 1-to-8 for children ages nine to 14. ACA accreditation is completely voluntary, however. If a camp has the credential, they have gone through a rigorous, costly accreditation process, and will typically display proof of certification on their website and/or in their office.
While the ACA accreditation is a valuable credential, it is no replacement for doing your homework. According to Becca Mack, the executive director of camping at Colorado’s Boulder Valley YMCA, ensuring that your child’s camp follows state licensing guidelines and provides adequate staff training is just as important as the ACA stamp of approval, if not more so. Whether or not they’re accredited by the ACA, camps must meet certain minimum standards set by their state. These requirements vary widely from state to state. While some states’ requirements are consistent throughout, in others they are specific to the city or county.
Meanwhile, there are a few states that have adopted the same standards as the ACA. An index of resources for each state compiled by the ACA can be found here. While some states’ websites are very transparent about their staffing ratios, including specific requirements for aquatics (Maine is a great example), others, like my home state of Colorado, are clear as mud.
Mack recommends parents talk directly to camp administrators to find out how they train their staff to manage swim time and make sure they know and adhere to their state’s licensing standards. For example, staff training at the Boulder Valley YMCA includes a water safety segment where they go over every aspect of swim time, including face checks, staff presence in the pool, and more. Says Mack, “[at the Boulder Valley YMCA] we do a mock pool time, so everyone learns what needs to be done.”
While the ACA standards dictate that camps must institute a system to quickly account for all campers involved in aquatic activities, it is at the camp’s discretion to decide which system to employ. While there is an app for nearly everything, they still haven’t come up with one to replace the Buddy System, a common water safety check that has not changed much, if at all, since my youth, whereby the lifeguard blows a whistle signaling campers to pair up with a pre-designated swim buddy. The Boulder Valley YMCA, which is not ACA-accredited, takes that requirement a step further, stipulating that every 15 minutes a staff member “must physically see each child. Instead of just a head count, they are specifically matching the child’s name on a list to their face.”
Some camps take the initiative to exceed state minimum staffing ratios. Boulder Valley’s YMCA Inspire Preschool is one such example. The state of Colorado requires a minimum staff ratio of 1-to-10 for preschoolers (ages three to four years old). According to Lisa Swainey, the preschool’s director, Inspire raises the bar by requiring not only a lifeguard dedicated exclusively to the preschoolers but also a minimum of two preschool staffers anytime the kids are swimming. Additionally, preschoolers are allowed only to splash within the confines of the baby pool, which reaches a maximum depth of one foot.
Beyond my casual questions about the swimming situation at my kids’ camp, it never occurred to me to explore my state’s licensing requirements until I witnessed the swim program firsthand. (I use the term “swim program” loosely.) I admit, my main camp selection criteria were convenience and price. After my poolside near-panic attack, though, my concern was safety. And rightly so, according to experts like Dr. Sanjay Gupta, senior medical correspondent at CNN Health. In an article posted there, he says toddlers are at a relatively huge risk of drowning, even in water as shallow as one inch, due to their top-heavy bodies: “Children 4 and under actually have the single highest drowning death rate according to the National Safety Council.” And according to Alan Steinman, MD, former director of health and safety at the U.S Coast Guard, drowning is a highly inconspicuous event. It happens quietly, without any arm flailing or cries for help.
Though I hated to break my kids’ little hearts, I felt I had no choice but to pull them out of camp. My kids got over it within a couple of weeks. I, on the other hand, would never have gotten over it had anything happened to them at that camp. I never would have forgiven myself for not trusting my instinct. As parents, we can research every topic, ask every question, and Google until our eyes burn, but at the end of the day, selecting the right camp is like the rest of parenting: Mostly we go on instinct.

Camp Songs Could Be Your New Drug of Choice

Science also shows us that we may be wired to feel even better when we sing in a group – and the bigger the group, the better.

I’m 11 years old and I’m sitting at a long table in the mess hall. The primitive building has cement flooring, a raised ceiling, and enough space to comfortably hold a few hundred kids and dozens of counselors. Just as I am about to ask one of my fellow campers to please pass the ketchup, the sound of conversation and silverware against plates is drowned by the sound of a song. It’s coming from a few tables over. Before the first verse is over, every conversation has ceased. Everyone in the room is singing about the wishy washy washer woman who washes her clothes in a way that I will eventually come to realize is weirdly sexual: “She goes ‘Ooh-aah. Oooh-aah.’”
Over 25 years later, I still haven’t experienced anything else (legal or illegal) that instantly puts my brain in the same relaxed, joyful state I experienced while singing at camp. I can’t help but wonder why. Apparently, I’m not the only one wondering what’s behind this phenomenon. According to the experts, it’s not just something in the bug juice.

Singing changes your mood – and your cells

Science has actually proved that the act of singing, as opposed to the experience of listening to music, is a natural mood elevator. A 2012 study published by Evolutionary Psychology found that in comparison to simply listening to music, the active performance of music (they tested singing, dancing, and drumming) elevated subjects’ endorphin levels. Endorphins are the “feel good” chemicals your body naturally produces. They have a lot in common with opiates and prescription anxiety medications and elicit a similar sense of well-being – without any of the side effects.
Similarly, a 2004 Journal of Behavioral Medicine study found that participants who sang in a choir demonstrated increases in positive affect (i.e., subjective mood) based on self-reports and, according to saliva samples, higher levels of immune system function than those who simply listened to the choir music.
A 2010 study from Music Performance Research also found choir participants self-reported high levels of mood elevation, stress reduction, and psychological well-being as a result of singing.
Meanwhile, the benefits of singing are not limited just to the talented. They also extend to tone-deaf people like me. In fact, A 2002 paper published in Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science suggests the less serious a singer you are, the more benefits singing can offer you. Researchers found that after a singing lesson, amateurs reported elevated levels of joy and elatedness, while professionals did not. That said, both the pros and the amateurs reported feeling more energetic and relaxed after a singing lesson. Additionally, both groups demonstrated significantly higher oxytocin levels after a singing lesson. (Oxytocin, a hormone released in both men and women during orgasm and in women when breastfeeding, plays a significant role in pair bonding – including the parent-child bond and between romantic partners. Further, oxytocin deficits are thought to contribute to depression.)

More is more

We know that singing in the shower or your car makes you feel like a rockstar, and we have the science to prove it. Science also shows us that we may be wired to feel even better when we sing in a group – and the bigger the group, the better.
A 2016 study published in Evolution and Human Behavior asked participants to provide subjective reports on social bonding and had their pain threshold measurements (representative of their endorphin levels) taken before and after singing for 90 minutes. Subjects either sang in a large group (over 200 people) or a small group (ranging from 20 to 80 people).
For both groups, feelings of social connectedness improved. Even more fascinating was that for those in the large group the improvement was significantly steeper, despite the fact that many of the participants were strangers to one another. Researchers conclude that the group cohesion facilitated by singing is consistent with evolutionary theories highlighting the role of music in social bonding, “particularly in the context of creating larger cohesive groups than other primates are able to manage.”
When you’re talking to someone who has never been to camp, it’s hard to explain the connected, joyous high you feel while singing “You’ve Got a Friend” over the sound of crickets, surrounded by fellow campers. They may look at you funny when you say it’s nothing short of a spiritual experience, but you can stand your ground, knowing there is plenty of science to back you up.

Having to Work Doesn't Mean Missing Out on Summer Memories

Summer’s not an ocean breeze for working moms. We try hard to make it as fun as we can, but inside we’re secretly freaking out about missing out.

I didn’t make a Pinterest board about imaginative things to do this summer with the kids at our lake house. Likewise, I won’t be needing any listicles detailing the most over-the-top care packages to take to visiting day at my child’s sleep-away camp. Guides to the hippest road trips won’t be necessary either, and if I see one more article about how to create the most magical summer of all time for my child, I’m definitely going to scream. Except I’m going to scream silently and into my elbow, because if I start yelling at work, I might get fired.

There’s no lake house in my life – at least, not yet, because a girl can dream. I can’t imagine being able to afford sleep-away camp. We are going on a road trip, but it’ll be pretty far from hip. We’re going to a family wedding and the price of plane tickets that week is astronomical. I hate to break it to my daughter, but this summer is probably not going to the most magical one of all time. I mean, I’ll do my best. I’ll put in a good effort, but the truth is…I have to work.

Summer’s not an ocean breeze for working moms. We try hard to make it as fun as we can for our children, often hiding our own stress and anxiety from them, but inside we’re secretly freaking out about how the heck we’re going to afford another week of day camp (and not the fancy one) so that childcare is covered while school’s out. Don’t even mention the guilt.

I feel terrible because I want to carve baskets out of watermelons, pick strawberries, and catch fireflies in Mason jars. I want to wake up early, pile everyone into the car and spend a long, lazy, unplanned day at the beach making sandcastles and boogie boarding. Elaborate fantasies about homemade popsicles, slip n slides, and mermaid parties fill my mind, with every rainy afternoon spent wandering through museums, but I’ve got deadlines to meet. I can’t blow them off, because those due dates mean grocery money. We have to wake up early, not to get the best parking spot at the boardwalk, but because I have to drop off my child in time to make it onto the Interstate to creep through rush hour gridlock and get to work on time.

Some days I have to work at six in the morning. Other times I’m on the night shift and I don’t get home until way past bedtime. Days off, I work on freelance articles. I have to do this or we’re stuck eating rice and beans and the car never gets that much-needed body work. This isn’t a choice I’m making, it’s an absolute necessity that I work as much as humanly possible. Trust me, the first windfall I get and I’m a stay-at-home mom too. I swear, I’ll be all over the Pinterest projects. At my lake house.

It’s hard for me not to get down on myself about having to work so much during the summers, but I try not to dwell on the decisions that led me to this place, the sheer bad luck I may have encountered, or the fact that our society just doesn’t make it easy for families to survive on one income anymore. Life isn’t easy for most people, and I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not the only mom doing my best while guilt eats away at me because my child wastes too much time in front of the TV and there’s not much I can do about it, because I have got to get this story done yesterday so I can get paid.

In all honesty, I’m not sure if my daughter is having the most magical summer of all time, but what does that even mean? Kids have lower expectations than adults anyway. Case in point: I stressed out and felt terrible because a few times this summer I didn’t have childcare and had to take my daughter to work with me for a few hours. I was convinced she was suffering. She thought it was the coolest thing ever, and a neat thing she gets to do in the summer because there’s no school.

Acceptance is key. This is my life right now, and it’s not bad. Beating myself up, however, would make this summer miserable for everyone, so that’s banned. I’m not going to focus too much on what I don’t have, because I actually have a lot. I’m going to dedicate whatever free time I do have to my family. I may not have as much time as I wish, but I can carve out an hour or two each day. I have evenings. I have some free time most weekends.

During the summers, we working moms have to avoid comparing ourselves to other people on social media and imagining how they have it better (they probably don’t). Our summer activities just have to be chosen mindfully. I may not be able to take a spur of the moment trip to the water park today, but if I knock off my to-do list, we can definitely run in the sprinkler and make those cute, blue gelatin, gummy shark cups from that video online.

Small moments can add up. We can drive down to the pier and eat ice cream near the beach some weeknight after dinner. I’ll get up earlier, knock some writing out before my shift starts, so that in the afternoon we can go swimming, or practice learning how to ride a bike without training wheels. It doesn’t take a long time to throw together my favorite frozen pie recipe with my daughter and, since there’s no school, we can stretch bedtime in order to play a board game or just hang out together on the back porch.

Working moms can still create beautiful summer memories. They just have to be a bit more intentional. We have to plan for them, but that doesn’t make them any less lovely.

Managing Serious Allergies During the Tween Years

Six years after dianosis, we are now in the thick of dealing with the social elements of food allergies with a tween.

My daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease at two, making all foods and items that contain gluten off-limits for her. We began the tedious process of cleaning out our pantry, relearning how to cook, and constantly monitoring our daughter, Wren. She was malnourished, and our primary job was to make sure she didn’t ingest any food that would act as a poison when it hit her body.
Sleep deprived and also caring for her six-month-old brother at the time, I longed for the days when she knew better than to pick up a Goldfish cracker off the ground and eat it, when she could read gluten-free labels and monitor her own food intake.
“This won’t be such a challenge when she’s older,” I told my husband. “She will know how to handle her condition, how to handle food, and the constant mental strain from being the overseers will lift a bit.”
He agreed, and we pushed through the years when Wren didn’t know how to avoid cross-contamination and didn’t know why Play-doh was on the never list for her. We took over, kept her safe, and taught her how to do the same as she grew ready. She learned and largely took charge of her food journey, understanding what was safe for her and what wasn’t.
But the journey became difficult in other ways even as certain aspects were simplified. Six years later, we are now in the thick of dealing with the social elements of food allergies with a tween.
***
My daughter proudly took her banana to the Sunday school class I supervised when she was a toddler. She ate it as all the kids around her consumed gluten-filled animal crackers and never complained. The source of the pain she had endured was in that cracker, and she didn’t want it.
“Social situations are easy,” I idiotically bragged to a friend. “She doesn’t mind being unique, and she hurt so much in the past that she doesn’t even want that food.”
Six years later, we have thankfully moved away from the pain, the malnourishment, the constant feeling of being physically unwell. But now I have a tween – a little girl one minute and an emotionally involved ball of big feelings that looks strangely like a teenager the next. We are deeper into the emotional component, the one I can’t fix with an alternative food.
This is not, in fact, easier.
***
Wren’s friend talks animatedly about the St. Patrick’s Day feast she wants us to attend next year even though it’s July and we are walking back from the pool in oppressive Texas heat. She tells of everyone bringing a dish, the table full of overflowing bounty, like the feast tables in the Harry Potter books.
Wren walks along, not speaking, looking at the concrete, and I wait for her to explain why she’s not excited about this. She doesn’t.
“We can’t do potlucks. They’re a bit tricky for Celiacs,” I say, kindly, knowing her friend didn’t think about this before sharing her excitement.
“What if someone brings gluten-free cookies?” she asks. And I know she would do this for Wren, just to make sure she was included.
“Cross-contamination – it’s too big of a risk. If other people have already touched them, well, crumbs can kill, right, Wren?” I say, shooting her a smile as I throw out the line we’ve drilled into her brain.
“Yep,” she responds, that older girl edge making an appearance. “This is why my life is bad.”
I don’t argue, though there are many reasons her life isn’t technically all that bad. We can afford the price of gluten-free food, the services of a naturopath when her thyroid or gut bacteria go off course. She is well, the hair she lost fully regrown, her distended stomach of the past now a normal size.
But I can’t argue that this component, being left out of food and the fellowship it brings, is bad. And it’s forever. Her friend was only talking about food peripherally when she spoke of this potluck. Her focus rested on the act of feasting, connection, and comparing notes on what tastes best. Food was just the medium to this fellowship – a medium Wren cannot enjoy.
***
I sit on hold for a full four minutes staring at the words in all caps on the medical release form. I signed Wren up for day camp four months ago, confident that she could carry her own snacks and lunch, wash her hands before meals, and partake with hundreds of other kids as they sang songs and played games from nine to four each day.
Then the medical release form landed on my computer screen four days before camp started, and I couldn’t breathe.
“I can’t sign this,” I told the woman on the other end of the phone. “It says I have to give you permission to administer medication to my daughter, and I can’t. Besides being allergic to tons of meds, most of them contain gluten. I would need to be contacted first. I can’t sign this.”
I expect her to say she understands and that this is a common problem. Instead, she puts me on hold with an unsteady voice that tells me this may mean trouble.
What can I offer to fix this? I think as I sit waiting. If she can’t go to camp, what will I do? How can I bargain her out of the emotional hole that she will fall into? Ice cream every day? The puppy she’s been begging for? More swim lessons?
I know even as the possibilities float into my mind that all of them will fail because I can’t replicate this experience. She will blame her Celiac, and she’ll be right. There is no replacement for a week at day camp with other kids doing normal things. It’s not as easy as replacing a gluten-filled graham cracker with a gluten-free one.
“Ma’am,” I hear as the girl comes back on the line. “We can work it out. Your daughter can still come.”
I release the breath I forgot I was holding as tears fill my eyes.

The First Stage of Letting Go: Sleepaway Camp

As painful as it is to set our kids free and lose control over them, in the long run they’ll only grow from the time spent away at camp (and beyond.)

It’s been five long days since I put my son on the bus heading to overnight camp. I did not react right away, but after a day of him not being in the house, I started to crack. Parenthood is never easy, but this was a new, almost bizarre, experience for me. For the last nine years, I was fully responsible for my son’s every move and knew where he was and what he was doing at all times. Now I had to face the challenge of letting him go. By the giant smiles on his face in the pictures, it’s clear that this is more of an issue for me than for him.

During the second night my son was away, I had an awful nightmare that he got hurt and I was not there to help him. I woke up with such fear and guilt about my decision to send him away. What was I thinking? No phone calls. No immediate feedback. No way of knowing what was going on. Was I being an irresponsible parent? What if something happens and I’m not there to comfort him? What if he needs me? Will he ever forgive me?

When the camp started posting pictures, I was so excited to see what my little boy has been up to. Let me tell you – he’s having the best time of his life! I saw him smiling at a campfire, bonding with his new bunk mates, heading down the lake in a raft, playing basketball, and partying at the camp welcome dance.

Oddly enough, the tears started pouring down my cheeks when I saw such happy photos of my son. I should be relieved that he’s adjusting well and having a blast, but something inside me didn’t feel quite right. I wasn’t the one responsible for providing those amazing moments for him. I wasn’t there sharing those fun experiences with him. He was out in the great big world having fun without me, and this was upsetting.

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It all sounds pretty ridiculous, right? Although not if you consider the tremendous strength of the mother-child bond. I just didn’t predict that I’d be the one to struggle when that bond went on hiatus for four weeks. The good news is that I raised an independent son who’s not afraid to go off on his own, but the bad news is that this is a bigger adjustment for me than I could ever imagine.

However, as many friends and experts have noted, giving our children the gift of overnight camp is one of the best things we can do for them. As painful as it is to set our kids free and lose control over them, in the long run they’ll only grow from the time spent away. Our main job as parents is to give our children the tools they need to go out into the world and discover who they are and what they want to become. A child can only truly grow if given freedom and the chance to gain confidence by exploring new ideas and activities. This is what overnight camp is giving my son. I know it deep within in my heart, but my heart still aches to be able to talk to him about his day and hug him every night.

Let’s face it. Many of us are helicopter parents. It’s a scary world out there – from guns to drugs to illness to bullying – so we want to keep a constant eye on our kids, but we’re not doing them any favors in the long run by hovering over them. According to Michael Thompson, a clinical psychologist and author of “Homesick and Happy, How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow,” true independence is something parents cannot give their children; they must live it on their own. In fact, we can actually hinder our children’s development if we are constantly making all of their decisions for them. Overnight camp provides a period of time during the year for our children to discover life without us breathing down their necks.

As difficult as it’s been to let my son go, I realize all the amazing life-long skills that he is developing while at camp.

Confidence

I know that my son will be more confident and have more self-esteem because of this time away. Camps provide many unique opportunities for children learn, contribute, and feel like they belong. They learn from trying new activities and making new friends, are part of sports teams and their bunk, and contribute by helping during meals and chores.

Camp also provides ways for children to feel a sense of accomplishment. When they succeed, they’re empowered and have more confidence when faced with the next challenge. They also learn from their mistakes and failures, which only makes them more resilient in the future. Some camp experiences even allow them to conquer their fears, whether it be learning to swim in a lake or climbing a ropes course.

Independence

Camp helps children become more independent. They learn how to make their own decisions without parents and teachers always telling them what to do. They’re expected to manage daily chores, show up on time to activities, and keep their belongings neat and clean.

Broader perspective

At camp, children begin to see the world differently. They’re away from their comfort zone and exposed to new people and experiences that give them a broader perspective. They realize that they’re part of something bigger than themselves and their immediate family. Finally, they meet and learn from people of different backgrounds, from different locations, and with various interests.

Community connection

Children benefit from being part of the special community found at overnight camp. It gives them a sense of belonging, which will ultimately improve their ability to cooperate, participate, and be caring citizens. Campers also gain new social skills from being in a group setting. They must share a room with others, manage chores, resolve conflicts, communicate effectively, and be kind and accommodating to their fellow campers. Being part of a close-knit community can be challenging at times, but children who learn how to adapt and get along with others will benefit for a lifetime.

Self-reflection

The camp environment provides a chance for kids to slow down and listen to their own thoughts. They’re forced to unplug from their electronics (I wonder if my son is having withdrawal symptoms from not playing video games) and soak in the beautiful nature around them. This allows them to be more mindful of their surroundings and emotions. They can focus on the simple things in life like going on a hike, watching a sunset, singing around the campfire, and talking in-depth to their friends.

Creativity

Camp provides a time for unstructured free play. Campers are encouraged to use their creativity to solve problems and have fun. They also learn how to keep busy with activities that have been used for centuries, such as swimming and boating in a lake, woodworking, and theater performances. This carefree living gives them a chance to relax without the pressures of their hectic, overly-scheduled lives back home.

Frankly, I wish I’d had the opportunity to attend overnight camp as a kid. I know that it would have helped me be a better person and reduce some of the challenges I’ve faced throughout my life. If I had to share a room with a dozen other girls, I probably would travel better, adjust to new surroundings more easily, and get along more successfully with my peers during high school, college, and throughout adulthood. As sad as I am right now that I am missing an important piece of my family for a few weeks, I know that I’m giving my son an opportunity of a lifetime to be the best, most successful person he can be.

The Reverse Bucket List Summer: Helping Kids Grow in Gratitude

Summertime posts are filled with thingswe “must” experience before it’s over. In lieu of the “bucket list,” I’ve put together something different.

I realized the other day that I have about 10 summers left with my oldest son before he’ll be off on his own (or at least partially). Ack! That really puts things in perspective.

On the other hand, I don’t want to feel pressured to create 10 magical summers filled with awe and wonder. I just want us to enjoy the time we have together. As a stay-at-home mom, I have the luxury to have the one thing that can never be replaced: time.

So how do you balance the desire to make summers fun, but not over-scheduled, over-pressured, and overdone?

I have written before about the value I see in kids experiencing boredom. Summer is prime time for boredom. We have loads of free time, few scheduled activities, and the weather is nice outside. I want to allow my sons time to just be. Just to hang around the house, tinker in the yard, dig in the garden, or build something out of a cardboard box.

Getting them past the uncomfortable feeling of boredom is often a struggle. There’s usually whining or perhaps some begging for a new book or toy. I have to remember to push through that feeling and let them work it out on their own.

However, this feeling bears down on me too. I sometimes feel bored and want to take them to do every activity or camp that’s available. Slow down, mama, I have to tell myself.

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We often feel the need to entertain, direct, organize, and otherwise “enrich” our kids’ lives.

This year I really want to focus on nurturing a sense of contentment, in my sons and myself. Compared to much of the world, we live in such luxury. We have healthy food, comfortable homes, and an almost endless assortment of entertainment options.

In such a culture, consumption has become a lifestyle. I feel this type of lifestyle breeds ungratefulness and that is one thing I do not want my kids to absorb. As Elizabeth Millard points out in her article, “If your brain is focused on what you don’t have, then you’ll be unhappy.” At some basic level, we all want our kids to be happy. I’m hoping that focusing on gratitude instead of consumption will help them develop a sense of deeper happiness that is long-lasting and meaningful.

I want my boys and myself to feel like it’s just enough. It’s enough to just enjoy nature or a good book. It’s enough to just go for a morning walk and find a new bug that we haven’t seen before.

Many summertime posts are filled with ideas of new places to see, exciting things to do, and all the things that we “must” experience before summer is over. This year, in lieu of the summer “bucket list,” I’ve decided to put together something different.

Based on an article that involved a reverse bucket list, this year I’m going to help my boys create a reverse summer bucket list. The idea is to list activities that we did in the past that brought us joy and contentment. I’m hoping just the conversation itself will inspire a sense of gratitude. Of course, if we feel like doing these things again, that’s great.

Here are a few things we came up with on our reverse summer bucket list:

1 | Played in the sprinklers until we got too cold and had to come inside

2 | Had a lemonade stand

3 | Went for a ride on paddle boats

4 | Went to a national park (or two)

5 | Went to family camp

6 | Went camping

7 | Went to visit a farm and feed the animals

8 | Played board games or card games

9 | Learned chess

10 | Swam with friends

11 | Found a new park and climbed a cool tree

12 | Went to grandma/grandpa camp

13 | Had an ant, tadpole, or roly-poly farm

14 | Had plenty of water gun fights

15 | Wandered around a library or bookstore

16 | Went roller skating

17 | Roasted marshmallows by the campfire

18 | Went to see a kid’s movie on a hot afternoon

19 | Went to the farmer’s market

20 | Listened to music at an outdoor concert

21 | Went for a cool hike with a great view

22 | Found an awesome playground

23 | Went for a bike ride around the neighborhood (costumes make it awesome!)

Want to create your own Reverse Summer Bucket List with your kids? Grab a pen and get started. Foster a sense of contentment and gratitude to create a summer of memories.

Originally published at the thoughtfulparent.com

A 12-Step Insanity Prevention Plan for Summer

Want to reclaim the joy that is summertime? Here’s your twelve-step plan to keep it together when school’s out so you make it a season you want to remember.

When you’re a kid, summer means freedom. No alarm clock. No bedtime. No cafeteria lunches. No homework. No rules. No one telling you what to do all the time. Read that list again as the parent and try not to hyperventilate. You want to make the most out of summer and the quality time with your kids, but you also want to survive. You want all those memories of afternoons at the pool, and chasing the ice cream truck and fireflies, but you also want to get some sleep and eat just one meal that includes a vegetable. You want peace, not war among siblings. You also want to reclaim the joy that once was summertime. So here’s your twelve-step plan to keeping it together when school’s out so that you make it a season you want to remember.

1 | Make a new schedule

There’s nothing like that first day waking up after school’s out and knowing you’ve got nowhere to be. Nothing beats the thrill of wearing pajamas all day and eating pizza for breakfast and ice cream for dinner.

However, that can only last so long before the whole house loses its equilibrium. We all need sleep, hygiene, and some kind of schedule before we turn into zombies. So plan your days, at least a little. If you want to hit the park every morning and the pool in the afternoon, great! You’ll have structured mealtimes in between play-times and everyone will be sufficiently worn out for bedtime, which can hopefully still happen at a reasonable hour.

2 | Make playdates on the regular

If your kids are in school, they’re used to socializing, and while they love you to pieces, they’re going to miss their friends. If you don’t live in a neighborhood swarming with kids, you’ll want to set up regular playdates. This gives you a break as the entertainer and lets them run with the pack for a bit.

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3 | Book a camp

Like swimsuits, there are camps for all shapes and sizes. My twins are two and even they can go to a day camp through a Mother’s Day Out program. Depending on your child’s age and interests, you can decide whether a day camp or an away camp would be best. Not all camps involve horseback riding and archery. Check out art, writing, church, or technology camps as well.

4 | Choose your own adventures

Because you’ve got more hours in the day to play with, you can do all the things you were too tired to do on the weekends during the school year. Take a trip to the aquarium or the science center or the amusement park or the county fair. It’s like those choose-your-own-adventure stories, but better, because it’s real.

5 | Play lawn games

Summer is a season that calls for doors wide open all day long and dining al fresco. No shoes, no shirt, no problem. Embrace the warm weather with all the lawn games that will remind you simultaneously of college and the elderly: cricket, badminton, baseball, croquet, lawn bowling, beanbag toss, frisbee, kites, bocce ball, horse shoes…the list is endless.

6 | Schedule swim lessons

So that you don’t panic every time you enter the pool zone, sign your kids up for swim lessons early and let them get comfortable in the water. Trying to teach your own kids swim safety at the pool at 11 a.m. on a Saturday is nearly impossible – like meditating in a mosh pit. Get a good teacher and let them mold your kids into confident swimmers. That way you might be able to sit down at the pool once in a while.

7 | Take a break

This one’s all for you. Plan a few date nights or morning brunches or anything at all that you can hire a babysitter for so that you can escape for a few hours. We all need breaks and with school out you’ll have to build them in yourself. Don’t feel guilty about it either. The kids might like a break from you too. No hard feelings. We just all need a little “me time.”

8 | Tell yourself that vacation rules

As in “rules!” with a thumbs up and a “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” accent. It can, in fact, be the “most excellent” adventure if you let it. Yes, we are the grownups and have to think practically and pack practically and plan practically, but we can also play like kids. We can let the road and the days take us where they may. It’s hard to set down the mantle of adulthood, but your kids will appreciate it and adulthood will always be there when you get back.

9 | Plan one-on-one time

When school’s in session, quality time comes ready-made. Drop one kid at swim or piano lessons and get an hour with another. However, in the summer, it’s everybody all the time. Which is why planning a date with each one is so important. They need it and so do you. You need to look each other in the eye and have one uninterrupted conversation. It resets the familial bond and keeps everyone from getting lost in the shuffle.

10 | Call in the troops

Call the grandparents and any other relative or friend within driving distance and haul them into your summer. You plus kids equals exhaustion pretty quickly when you don’t have a buffer. Relatives and close friends are shoe-ins for some extra quality adult time. They want to spoil your kids and they give you someone to talk to outside the kid kingdom.

11 | Eat popsicles and vegetables

If I let myself, I will eat Chinese takeout three times a day until someone or something (MSG, food poisoning, sodium overdose) stops me. It’s worse in the summer when everyone’s on the go and the ice cream truck inevitably rolls around at dinner time. While you should never pass up eating a push pop, you know you’ve got to get in the vegetables and all the other levels on the food pyramid. So take your kids to the farmer’s market and pick out the fresh stuff or plant your own garden. Do whatever it takes to counteract (at least a little) the sugar and fast food overload that is the definition of summer.

12 | Hit up the back-to-school sales

If you’ve made it to step 12, you’re in the home stretch. Possibly the best (for you) and worst (for them) part of summer is the end, when they can count on fingers and toes the days until school starts up again. Despite this, I don’t know a kid who doesn’t like a new backpack or outfit, even if it is for school. Psych them up for fall by checking the sales early and marking the tax-free weekend on your calendar now.

Summer is and should be fun. It was when you were a kid and it can be again as you relive it with your kids. Now you get to be the adult that calls them in for dinner and wins them a goldfish at the fair and rubs in the sunscreen on tiny shoulder blades. It doesn’t have to be about survival. It can be all the good stuff too. Summer is freedom for everybody involved.

5 Ways to Get Your Teenager Out of Their Room This Summer

In a study that will surprise exactly zero parents, teenagers were found to be at exceptionally high risk of leading a far too sedentary lifestyle.

Is your teen in the running for the “Laziest Kid on the Planet” award?

Are sightings of your teen largely limited to fleeting glances of a skulking, bleary-eyed, pajama-clad figure on a nightly run to the fridge for pudding cups and energy drinks? Have you had to take your child to the ER to safely pry a smartphone from a hand that had seemingly curled permanently around it? Have you found yourself wondering, perhaps around noon time, if your sleeping child could have lapsed into a coma?

Don’t make space on that trophy shelf just yet. Science says that your teen has a lot of competition for that Laziest Kid award, and stiff competition at that.

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In a study that will surprise exactly zero parents, teenagers were found to be at exceptionally high risk of leading a far too sedentary lifestyle. One particularly gasp-worthy finding was that sixty-year-olds and nineteen-year-olds get about the same amount of exercise, and that amount could fairly be described as “little to none.”

The good news is that you can take action to ensure that the empty space on your mantle waiting for that “Laziest Kid” trophy remains unoccupied. Help your teen buck the trend by choosing one or more of these suggestions to get them moving this summer.

Summer jobs (paid)

Forget retail and fast food. Lounging behind a cash register at the mall isn’t going to help much. Fried temptations at their fingertips at a quick service restaurant are often counter-productive, as well. Though it would seem like lifeguarding is a good option, a great deal of time is spent the same way teens often spend time at home: sitting.

Instead, encourage your teen to pursue employment that demands physical activity. Schlepping groceries or working as stock clerks are great for teens who want to get fit or want to develop their physical strength. Landscaping and yard mowing not only get them outdoors, but provide a lot of valuable cardio over the course of a shift. Running after children as a babysitter or camp counselor may be more up your teen’s alley, and can be a good source of physical activity as well.

Dog walking, car washing, swim instruction – even a gig as a shopping cart rounder-upper at the local Wally World or home improvement store can mean that your teen is meeting or beating the CDC’s recommendation of 60 minutes a day of moderate to strenuous physical activity. As an extra bonus, your teen will have more money in his or her pocket to blow on that $150 pair of jeans, the purchase of which they believe is the only move that can possibly save them from a tragic fate as an instant social pariah.

Unsure of your state’s laws regarding at what age kids are allowed to work or what permits he may require? You can find the scoop on ages, paperwork, and other work-related information specific to teens at the Department of Labor’s website here.

Summer jobs (unpaid)

As much as they claim to loathe it, working around the house during the summer is not deadly, nor does it mean your child will be doomed to a life of indentured servitude. Summer projects around the house can actually be fun and fruitful.

Choose something for which your teen actually derives a benefit. It’s up to you whether that benefit is monetary (i.e., you literally pay them) or non-monetary. Whether they get cash for it or not, you’ll have an easier time selling this idea to your teen if they can easily see that they will derive a personal, direct, quick benefit from it.

Does your teen want to use the car? Try an hour-for-hour trade of car-related (even loosely related) duties for time they may spend using the car. If they clock two hours cleaning the garage, that’s two hours’ worth of time they can have the car for their own purposes. Wash and wax Mom’s truck for an hour, get an hour of truck use in exchange.

Does your teen complain about a boring room or lack of privacy? Get them a bucket of paint in the color of their choosing and have them paint their own room. Have a particularly ambitious teen with some woodworking skills? Offer partial “ownership” of a backyard shed they build themselves over the summer. Here are some drool-worthy examples for inspiration. Once completed, let your teen use it as a space for band practice, a private getaway from the siblings, or safe storage for their stuff if they’re soon leaving for college.

Summer sports

Participation in organized sports offer a number of benefits, but its ability to get teens moving is one of the most important. Practices have set times, and failure to perform has set consequences. For kids with a competitive spirit, sports can provide the perfect way to channel it.

Some teens flounder over the summer due largely to the season’s stark lack of structure. During the school year, there is literally a reason for teens to get up in the morning and a reason to get to bed at a reasonable hour at night. Over the summer, the structure of the school day and the associated academic demands disappear. Including team practices in a teen’s summer schedule can give them the structure they need to not only to get themselves moving, but to manage their time from a more general standpoint.

Community “rec” teams are a possibility for some younger teens, but those tend to disappear quickly as a teen gets older and sports become more intense and more serious. If rec teams aren’t really an option in your area, consider encouraging your teen to volunteer as an assistant coach, trainer, or referee for younger kids’ teams.

Summer hobbies and volunteering

For kids who are either too young to work or are not well-suited for a structured employment environment, cultivating an interest in active hobbies may be just the ticket. Active hobbies include can include anything from community volunteering to training for a 5k to fun apps for gamers that get players out of the house and moving.

Habitat for Humanity, for example, sponsors a youth program that provides volunteering opportunities for kids aged five and up. Houses of worship of nearly every faith regularly offer summer programing for young children for which they actively seek teenage chaperones/volunteers. The United Way offers yet another source for parents seeking active volunteering opportunities for teenagers.

Teens who are tightly tethered to their devices may balk the idea of being separated from their precious [insert Gollum-esque growl here]. Even these teens can be coaxed, but you might need to be sneaky about it.

Consider suggesting activities or apps that encourage device-dependent teens to get outdoors and get moving. Geocaching, an activity that has recently seen a massive increase in numbers of devoted adherents, is one such activity. Teens can use their phone’s GPS to search for caches. It’s fun, it’s educational (shh – maybe don’t mention that bit), and it demands plenty of walking. Triple win.

Gamer teens might enjoy apps like Pokemon Go. While very clearly a game, it also requires, by its very nature, a great deal of walking. As an extra bonus, teens can explore parts of their communities they might otherwise never visit. Other games based on the Pokemon Go concept include Ingress (by Niantic, the same company that delivered Pokemon Go), Temple Treasure Hunt, and Resources.

Summer bonding

A treasured rite of passage, you can’t beat summer camp for motivating teens to get outdoors and get active. Younger teens will enjoy their time as campers and older teens can take advantage of (often paid) opportunities to serve as counselors. The variety of camp types available boggles the mind. If kids and teens have an interest in it, there’s probably a camp devoted to it.

Whether your kid is into music, basketball, horses, or just plain old friendship, finding a camp to suit his or her interests is often a Google search away. In addition to having fun and getting moving, participating in summer camp also gives kids a chance to form lifelong bonds with children from outside their usual social spheres (school, church, or neighborhood).

Bonding with peers is an important part of adolescence, but family bonding is crucial during this developmental phase as well. Consider some activities your teen might enjoy doing with you, your spouse, his or her siblings, or even the entire family.

Is your teen developing an interest in cooking or has she decided to explore veganism? How about making a family project of creating a backyard vegetable garden? Plenty of outdoor gardening time plus fresh vegetables at your fingertips is a winning combination. The sense of accomplishment for a teen serving up a meal she literally created from start to finish is unmatched.

Consider investing in fitness trackers for the whole family, and set a family goal of collectively achieving a certain number of steps by summer’s end. Plan an extra special celebration or purchase of a mutually appealing item for the whole family to enjoy (e.g., weekend trip to an amusement park, a pool table, a trampoline) if you achieve your goal.

Whether via a job, volunteer opportunity, hobbies, camps, or family projects, today’s teens needn’t be saddled with the health problems that accompany a sedentary lifestyle. By modeling healthy levels of activity yourself and encouraging your teen to pursue an active lifestyle, you are setting your teen up to develop lifelong, life-extending habits. Mark this summer as the one when you took action to ensure your mantle never sports a “World’s Laziest Kid” trophy.

A Mother’s Random, Contradictory Musings in the Final Week of the Academic Year

Holy crap, I can’t believe it’s the last week of school!!
What a shitty spring we’ve had. About damn time summer showed up.
Summer will be fun. I look forward to summer.
Why am I not feeling excited about summer? Being an adult blows.
I fricking love sun. Bring on the Vitamin D, Ma Nature! Blaze it UP.
It turns out that four hours at a soccer tournament with no shade and no sunscreen results in more of a broiled lobster look than a shimmery golden tan.
Summer’s the perfect time to shed the layers and get rid of excess stuff.
Mainly because I didn’t manage to follow through on those epic spring cleaning plans.
It’ll be great to spend more time with the kids.
As soon as I’ve put the kibosh on the incessant fighting and whining because there is absolutely NO room for that smack around here, boys.

I love how everyone shifts into summer mode. People just seem nicer and more laid back.
This must have something to do with the Vineyard. I have lost count of all the people who’ve told me they “summer” there. Suddenly, I’m seeing MV euro stickers everywhere I go. I doubt it would even feel much like getting away, because, “Look! There’s Lexi and Joe from down the road, honey!” Different, but related: Will you please cool it with the pastel shorts and penny loafers, dads? Not a good look.
I am so ready for heat – as in a whole day that doesn’t require socks. In fact, I refuse to wear anything more than a light shift and flip-flops.
If you sit directly under the ceiling fan on full blast, naked, you might not end up in a puddle of your own sweat. It’s the only place suitable for working, let alone thinking, on a 90+ degree day. Those brisk fall days are going to feel awesome.
I’m only going to work when absolutely necessary to maximize quality family time.
Holy Kellerman’s, Baby! That is one expensive summer camp! Time to put in some extra hours.
How about some swimming lessons, kids!?
We only need to drive each of you 35 minutes one-way at totally inconvenient times of day so you can ignore what the swim instructor says about improving your flutter kick because you “already know how to do it” and would much rather cannonball off the diving board even though it’s strictly prohibited.
It’ll be so good for the kids to have unstructured play time together.
(Twenty minutes later.) Unstructured playtime is total bunk, namely between brothers at peak sibling rivalry times, which are most of the times lately. Cue: chores list, supervised activity ideas, another pricey adventure camp, family outing over-planning, etc.
Hammocks are the epitome of relaxation. I’m going to string one up in the shade and make hammock napping a daily thing. I am going to relax SO MUCH this summer.
I’ve never managed to get comfortable enough in a hammock to actually sleep though. And I’m not really a napper. Plus, the bugs find you.
We’re going to get out there and hike some mountains, people! Camel’s Hump! Mount Abe! Mount Mansfield! Smuggler’s Notch! The kids are finally old enough.
But let’s start with the trails out back to build up their stamina and stay within striking range of the snack drawer.
Yard projects, here we come!
Unless it’s over 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Best to hold off until the cooler months to tackle that overgrown raised bed…or delay the job just long enough so the hubs gets to it first. (Check!) Also, our resident woodchuck likes the wood pile as it is – in a disheveled heap – because it means we give it a wide berth with the lawn mower and leave him alone.
I’m going to help my kid get a leg up in math this summer. Because that’s what conscientious Moms do.
The mere sight of those word problem worksheets depresses me, unfortunately. Maybe figuring the difference between stuck and unstuck trampoline flips (accounting for an observational margin of error) will prepare him for 4th Grade math?
I will finally take the proctored exam to get my boat operator’s license.
I’ve been driving without one since age 13 and can manhandle a boat in 20 knots no probs. If I took the exam, I’d ace it, and we’re real busy, so…maybe next year.
This is the summer of one-on-one time with my husband. The summer of bike rides! Weekend get-aways! Renewed nuptial electricity! The summer of LOVE!
First, though, we’ll have to divide and conquer to get the kids where they need to go.
Tabled for further discussion: For how many consecutive nights can we saddle the g-rents with the g-kids without burning through this year’s allotment of free/guilt-free childcare?
We’re going to spend entire days completely outside. Playing, eating, peeing, everything. We’ll toughen up our feet and take the opportunity to teach the kids how to shit in the woods, stay safe in swimming holes, harvest mushrooms. They will become tough little nature sprites, one with their surroundings, unafraid of the creepy crawlies.
Like ticks. Black flies. Hornets. Midges. Mosquitoes. Poison ivy. Poison parsnip. Bull thistle. Damn.
Festival season!! Woohoo!!!
Argh, we missed Jazz Fest. And the Franti tickets sold out weeks ago. Solid Sound? That takes some serious commitment with kids. But it’s doable, for a price, unlike the hippy-grungy Lollapaloozy free-range mudfest-moshpits of our youth. I miss our youth.
I’ve decided we’re going to play it easy breezy and just see what the summer brings.
Jesus H. Christ, we’re already booked through August. How does this happen?!?

Transitioning into an ASD-Friendly Summer

Summer for someone on the autism spectrum can be difficult. However, there are ways to put together a fun summer with minimal frustration.

Summer for someone on the autism spectrum can be difficult. The need for new stimulation or the open-ended days of summer can cause anxiety and frustration. As parents of children with autism spectrum disorder, we often find ourselves scratching our heads and wondering what kind of day we can cobble together that will lead to the fewest meltdowns. Summer camps are not always the answer. With limited staff, counselors are not always there to pick up the pieces after a missed social cue or to help with peer to peer interactions.

There are ways to put together a fun summer with minimal frustration. Here are my top 10 ASD-friendly ideas that will help make your transition into summer a little bit easier.

1 | Keep a schedule

ASD kids can feel the greatest anxiety when the structure is gone from their days. They may have the temptation to stay in bed all day or glue their faces to their iPad screens. A schedule of weekly events will help motivate them to get up and get going. A weekly trip to the library or to a local park will act as stabilizing points for the week. Joining a book club can add to this by setting aside time each week to read or create art work about the book. Print up a calendar with all the events listed so that your child can refer to it and know what is coming.

2 | Bucket list

Before the end of the school year, talk to your child about creating a bucket list of fun ideas. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. This can be a way of discovering your child’s expectations for the summer. The list might include trips to the beach or visiting grandparents. Developing a new friendship or spending time with a close friend might also be a part of the list. Once the list is complete, you can add a few to your calendar as things to look forward to.

3 | Have a plan B

As we all know, things don’t always go as planned. When an outing goes bad due to rain or unforeseeable events, an ASD child has a difficult time understanding why. It can lead to a real blow up. My plan B has always been a stop at the ice cream parlor, but there are many plan B options to keep in your bag of tricks. A board game battle, an art project that you have tucked away at home, or a special movie would be great distractions from what your child is missing. It may not diffuse the disappointment completely but it is a good way to redirect away from it.

4 | Season passes

One of the toughest things that we experience as the parent of an ASD child is the inability to stay in one place for very long. Trips to amusement parks and zoos might only last an hour or two as the crowds grow and the weather gets hot. If you live close enough, buying a season pass to parks or museums can make these trips easier. Your visits may include only a portion of a museum each time, allowing you to leave before the crowds come and giving you a reason to return another day. Many amusement parks have easy access accommodations for ASD children, helping speed up wait times. These visits can also be added to the calendar as perhaps an every-other-week outing.

5 | Don’t overdo it

As tempting as it is to pack the day full of fun outings, remember that many ASD children need down time. Putting too much into a day can lead to a meltdown later. Breaking the day into two parts, with a rest time in between, helps. Even on overnight trips, it’s important to factor in this decompression time, and sitting in the car doesn’t always count. A quiet place and a snack will, most times, reset the body and mind, allowing your child to move forward to the next adventure.

6 | Find fun in the things they love

My son loves cars. One summer, we made a plan to visit as many car shows as we could. It was inexpensive and always an adventure to see new car styles and their owners. Make a point to connect with your child’s passion (usually we have one to work with) and make plans. A passion for trains could lead to a weekly visit to different train stations in the area. A love of art could lead to galleries. An interest in animals might take you to farms or rescue centers. You can connect this with your library outings, searching for books on the topic to learn more.

7 | Touring

One year my son and I decided to visit every known park within a 10 mile radius. We checked each one out and then rated them on how much fun they were. The next year we did a tour of water parks and pools in the area. Creating tours can fill up slow days or add something to the end of a day. Forest preserves, arcades, ice cream shops, and pet stores are all great ideas. Add a rating system or scavenger hunt to keep it interesting.

8 | Find a friend

As we already know, one of the biggest struggles our ASD children face is making friends. Summer is the perfect time to make new friends and build on old friendships. Create a social day for the summer. Maybe take a friend on one of your outings or invite him over for lunch and a movie. Anything to keep those connections open or to develop new ones. Stay away from competitive ideas like games, and center around ideas that will keep everyone relaxed. Encourage communication and direct the focus on things that the children have in common.

9 | Charity work

With the pressures of school fading away, now is the time to focus on ideas such as empathy and independence. Getting involved in a charity is the perfect way to help your ASD child get in touch with that softer side. Keep it connected with their interests. Animal lovers can collect newspapers for local rescue centers. Gather food or clothing for donation.

When we began our charity work, it was difficult to get my son involved. Start slow. Research the charity online and print out pictures. Put aside 15 minutes at a time to work on the project. The end result can be a visit to the charity to show your child how his time helped others.

10 | Keep learning

It’s important to keep up with some continued school work. As the summer comes to an end, probably quicker than you anticipate, the transition back into school will be easier if there is just a hint of school work thrown into the summer. Not right away and not too much, but a little math or a small writing assignment will keep their minds ready to begin again in the fall.

I’m a strong believer that summer vacation should be a time of fun and regrouping. Our children work hard during the school year and they need a break both physically and emotionally. Even though summer should be fun, ASD kids have a difficult time transitioning into the break. Keeping a schedule, making it simple, and listening to your child’s input will help ensure a summer of fun and will minimize the stress and anxiety of the unknown. Start slow, plan your bucket list, don’t forget the sensory breaks, and have a fun-filled summer!