- At Home
The end of the school year is always a whirlwind--class parties, teacher gifts, performances, recitals, and the ever-present question: “What are your kids doing this summer?”
The question itself seems innocent enough, but there is a lot of baggage that comes with it. Everywhere we look, we see advertisements for camps, one claiming to be better than the next. They promise glorious days filled with adventures sure to exhaust our little cherubs. Some specialize in specific skills, from sports, to music, to science. Others offer a more rounded set of activities. Each tempts us with its promises.
When I was young, I went away to summer camp, and it was one of the best things I ever did. Therefore, I am a huge fan of camp--particularly the sleep-away variety. My passion is teaching resilience, and, if camp is anything like it was when I went, it offers great opportunities to build resilience: waking up to trumpets, cleaning toilets and showers, sticking to a schedule (even when it includes jumping into a freezing cold lake at 8:30 am), figuring out how to get some decent nutrition out of the dining hall, and living with 11 other girls. The great part is, there are no parents to jump in and save you.
Yes, I am a big fan of camp. That being said, when we were young, camp lasted for 2 weeks. The rest of the summer was ours.
Tonight as I watched Phineas and Ferb, I was reminded of just how important that unstructured time was in developing key skills: creativity, social skills, independence, and self-advocacy to name a few. Without camp, we found ways to entertain ourselves. We went swimming, We rode our bikes. We caught frogs. We made up games. Occasionally, we got ourselves into a heap of trouble (like that time my brother decided it was a good idea to use me for a practice target while he was using his bow-and-arrow). But for the most part, we just had fun. Creative fun.
Logistically, with two working parents, camp throughout the summer is not always a choice--it is a necessity. However, it is important to keep in mind that unstructured time is incredibly important to brain development and creativity. This summer, make sure to give kids time to play--unstructured, unguided, creative play. Make sure that if they are scheduled through the day that they are not scheduled all night as well. Kids need down time. And when they say, "I'm bored," don't give in. Be Patient. They will figure it out--they just need to remember how.
So as people begin to ask that dreaded question, “What are your kids doing this summer?” don’t hesitate to reply, “Having fun!”
Donna Volpitta, Ed.D. is a resilience educator and author of the book, The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive, Not Reactive, Parenting. To find out more, visit her website: www.URresilient.com