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5 Things Summer Vacation Can Teach Your Kids

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Responsibilities & Values

The great thing about summer is the sense of possibility. The long stretch of unencumbered time. Nothing one has to do. Everything one could do.

I hope your son or daughter can capitalize on the possibilities summer offers. There are some key skills your child can develop if given the chance and some guidance. By following these five steps, you can provide some great opportunities for your child to set a goal and reach it. What a great learning experience for summer!

Step #1: Think of things to do. Being bored is a good thing. It is the beginning of all new ideas. So becoming comfortable with a gap in the day is the key to creating something really exciting.

Support this by making certain there is unscheduled time in your child’s day. Don’t prohibit daydreaming! At the same time, step in if boredom turns to despair or destructiveness.

Step #2: Set goals that are achievable. Sometimes a child’s great idea, the one that makes him rouse from his boredom with a shout of “I’ve got it!” – sometimes it’s an idea too large, too dangerous, or too expensive to pull off. Learning how to adjust the plan to meet logistical constraints is indeed a key skill.

Support this by first being accepting and supportive (“What a great idea?’) and then inquiring (“But tell me… where will you get a rocket ship? Do you know someone who has one?’). Notice that you don’t need to throw cold water on the entire idea. Just help your child to herself tailor her ideas into something both satisfying and achievable.

Step #3: Make a plan to achieve a goal. Kids are great at envisioning the finished product or event but not quite so good at planning the steps to get there. Doing this is practice of a key skill

Support this by asking “What will you do first?” You can suggest your child outline the steps and try to think of everything he’ll need to do and all the supplies or equipment he’ll need to source. Don’t do this for your child, but you can certainly provide some guidance if he asks.

Step #4: Work within a timeframe. Time is part of any plan but it’s something children struggle to imagine. Consider how kids often underestimate how long their homework will take! So imagining a finish-date and backing up the steps to today is a good practical exercise.

Support this by making certain your child has time to work on her plans. Again, a child with too-tight a schedule is severely limited in her creative opportunities. Do what you can to support your child with the gift of time.

Step #5: Learn to deal with setbacks. No plan runs smoothly. There almost always are setbacks, detours, and just plain mistakes. Can your child stick with his idea, managing difficulties along the way, and come to an acceptable outcome at the end? This key skill is essential for life success.

Support this by lending a sympathetic ear. Setting something aside for a while is often helpful. Sometimes giving up on an idea is the only sane choice. But usually, conferencing together helps a solution to bubble up and leads to success. Give your child the emotional support she undoubtedly will need.

Your child’s summer can be inspirational and skill-building. It all starts with a little time to be bored and some guidance from you!

© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.