Making the Most of Summer
After a challenging year, summer days are here. While your child may be looking forward to more free time, you may be wondering just how to fill those days or worrying about fitting everything into those precious summer months. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the summer with your child and make sure they have time to recharge for next school year.
- Make sure your child has the supervision needed to stay safe and healthy. Adequate supervision is essential to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children. The Fairfax County Department of Family Services has published guidelines to help you in determine if your child is ready to be left unsupervised.
- If your child is not yet ready be left home alone, there are a number of options to consider from different childcare providers to summer programs. Camp Fairfax is a full-day summer School Aged Child Care (SACC) program through the Fairfax County Office for Children that runs from June 14 to August 20 (less weeks available at school sites) and is available to rising 1st through 7th graders and students with multiple disabilities (age five to 21). In addition, the Fairfax County Park Authority offers a full-day summer REC-PAC program for elementary school children from June 28 to August 5, as well as a variety of summer camp programs for children ages three to 14.
- If your child is ready to be left alone for a longer period, be sure you have established clear rules and expectations, removed or secured any items in your home that may be a health or safety risk, and discussed with your child how they should handle any emergency or out of the ordinary situations. You may also feel more comfortable knowing your child has a structured activity to attend each day or can check in regularly with an adult.
- Make family time a priority. You don’t have to go on a family vacation to make family time a priority this summer. Try to set aside time each day to do something as a family. Going on walks, reading together, volunteering at a community event, or sharing a meal are great ways to connect as a family. Get your child involved in planning family time as well. Fun ideas include organizing family game nights, cooking competitions, or a neighborhood scavenger hunt.
- Avoid the summer slide. Children can lose academic gains in the summer. One way to address this is to encourage your child to read during the summer months. Check with your child’s school for any summer reading assignments, suggested reading lists, or summer reading programs they may offer. The Fairfax County Public Libraries will once again host their Summer Reading Adventure program for children from birth to rising seniors. The program runs from June 11 to August 13. The library will also host a variety of free enrichment programs for children and teens throughout the summer.
- Find meaningful summer enrichment opportunities. Summer is a great time for high school students to take advantage of enrichment opportunities that will allow them to explore different careers and prepare for life after high school. Summer activities may help round out a student’s application for college and/or future jobs while allowing them to discover things they enjoy (or do not enjoy) doing. Summer jobs, internship programs, volunteering, and pre-college programs are all excellent ways for students to gain personal insights, further interests, and develop new skills. It’s important, however, to avoid the pitfall of signing up for summer programs just because you think they will “look good” on a college application, but are not meaningful or of interest to your child. The FCPS Naviance Student program, available to all middle and high school students, has a list of enrichment programs and volunteer opportunities. Enrichment information can be accessed by clicking on the “Colleges,” then "Research Colleges," and lastly “Enrichment Opportunities." Students can find volunteer opportunities by clicking on the x2VOL link within their Naviance Student account. In addition, information on Summer Learning Programs can be found on the FCPS website. Talk with your child’s school counselor if you have questions about what opportunities may be a good match for your child this summer. High school career center specialists may also maintain a list of opportunities for students in your local community.
- Weigh the benefits and drawbacks of optional academic summer courses. While some students may be required to attend summer academic programs, other students may have the option of taking a high school course in the summer. It is important to talk with your child about the reason for taking a summer course before enrolling. In some cases, taking the course will allow them to pursue other courses during the school year that will strengthen or enhance their schedule. In other cases, their time may be better spent engaging in a meaningful summer enrichment opportunity. Talk with your child’s school counselor if you have questions about high school summer courses.
- Give your child time to relax while maintaining some structure. It can be tempting to fill your summer with events and activities, but be sure to build in some downtime for everyone in your home. Running from one thing to the next can be tiresome and both you and your child need time to relax and recharge before next school year. While you may choose to be flexible on some of your normal rules and routines, try to maintain a structure that ensures your child is getting the nutrition, exercise, and sleep they need. Bedtimes and screen time can be particularly challenging in the summer months, but providing limits and consistency will allow you to keep your child healthy in the summer and make for an easier transition back to school in August.
Healthy Minds is for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Fairfax County Government. SUBSCRIBE to Healthy Minds and receive a monthly digest of our most recent articles.