Depending on who you ask, it’s just about the start of the most or least wonderful time of the year. As our children start their summer breaks, it’s a great time for a check-in. Some specific areas that might be salient are academic performance, social considerations, and engaging in a healthy lifestyle as I will describe below.
Academic performance: For many children, report cards and parent-teacher conferences will be arriving soon and we’ll have a better sense of how they are doing. If your child has been struggling, summer is an ideal time to consider resources to help them make gains in the short-term but also in preparation for the fall. It can be very helpful to prepare a list of questions for your child’s teacher and specifically ask for recommendations over the summer and what resources they suggest. For example, if financially feasible, tutoring or summer school might be good options. Sometimes “testing” is warranted to identify academic strengths and weaknesses that schools are required to address. “Testing” can be called a number of things but it typically involves intelligence testing (or IQ testing), achievement testing (i.e., evaluating academic skills like reading and math), and perhaps psychological measures to see if there could be emotional reasons that a child is struggling in school. Testing can be completed by Board of Education personnel or privately for a fee. It can take a long time to secure a testing appointment and therefore this is something to work on as soon as possible if recommended or if you think it might be beneficial. Testing is usually accompanied by a written report consisting of individualized recommendations that could be implemented in the coming school year.
Social considerations: Summer is a good time to pay attention to and bug your child about their social life. For example, did he/she seem unusually relieved that school ended? Is he/she looking forward to summer social activities? These considerations may shed light on how your child is doing with peers. A specific concern is the startlingly high rates of bullying/ victimization experienced by children; my colleagues found that a large percentage of parents, about 50%, don’t know when it’s happening (Shemesh et al., 2013). Therefore, it’s perhaps imperative for us to ask about bullying and to take action if detected. Discussion with school personnel is an important first step towards ending it.
Healthy lifestyle engagement: We are in a society where both pediatric obesity and eating disorders are on the rise. Summer can be an excellent time to jumpstart healthy lifestyle engagement. On the flip side, it can also be a time for concern. Our kids may have visions of on one hand lying around eating ice-cream and chips all summer or on the other hand, losing weight unnecessarily by the time that school starts. As parents, we can at the very least monitor our child’s eating and physical activity carefully over the summer. We can also up the ante by helping our child find ways to increase physical activity (e.g., camps, perhaps taking up new activities as simple as even walking, jogging or swimming). For the past year, my group has been helping overweight children in the NYC area find low or no cost physical activity resources in their neighborhoods. There are a surprising number of options out there that can be found via internet searches (for example, http://www.nycgovparks.org/programs/recreation/shape-up-nyc). If you have any worries about eating disordered behavior, consultation with your pediatrician can help you to decide if further intervention is needed.
And, last but not least, your child will surely cherish the extra fun that they get to have with you over the summer. Make sure to “schedule” lots of it!
Shemesh, E., Annunziato, R.A., Ambrose, M., Ravid, N, Mullarkey, C., Rubes, M., Chuang, K., Sicherer, M., & Sicherer, S.H. (2013). Child and parental reports of bullying in a consecutive sample of children with food allergy. Pediatrics, 131(1), e10-7.