It goes without saying that kids need to stay connected to their friends, and summertime is the perfect opportunity for kids to hone their social skills. During the school year, children sit with friends at lunch and run with the crowd at recess. But in the summer, those opportunities don't come naturally; it takes a bit of work to consider the when, where, and whom! By allowing our kids to take the reins on this, they're learning crucial social skills that will set the stage for their adult relationships.
Through research, we know that “exposure to positive experiences, settings, and people, as well as opportunities to gain and refine life skills, supports young people in the acquisition and growth of [their] assets”. Let's try to break this down further.
Summer Break for Elementary School Kids
1. Plan Ahead
The goal is autonomy, but at this age, your child needs a lot of support and reminders. Before the school year ends, encourage them to get their friends' contact info. Pinwheel has a feature called Contact Safelist that lets you approve your child's requests before they can call or text that person. Alternatively, Messenger Kids (also available on Pinwheel) is a super popular app for kids this age.
2. Open Invites to Family Outings
When I bought MLB tickets, I added two extra tickets to the cart for each of my children's friends. When we pop over to the neighborhood pool, my kids like to bring a friend or arrange to meet up. And when we go camping in the mountains, the entire friend's family is invited to join! These activities feel awesome compared to a lazy summer day at home watching TV. To kids, they're exotic and rife with memories.
3. Make New Friends
School friends are often made through silly reasons like seating charts, and the social factor comes subconsciously. Out of that environment, kids have to flex a little harder to develop friendships, interests, and social skills. Encourage them to say hello or ask to play with someone they don't know at the park to figure out how to connect with others in the wild.
Summer Break for Middle and High School Kids
Older kids need and want more autonomy, so avoid planning out their schedules. Instead, help guide their summer plans with questions like: What makes you feel fulfilled? How much down-time do you want? What are your goals these days? What's on your bucket list?
If your teen finds it difficult to narrow their focus, offer up some local volunteer opportunities. Volunteering gives them the feeling of doing good while also honing their future plans. While teens want and need independence, they still need an advocate during these years. So try to find the balance between helping them out and stepping out of their way.
1. Brainstorm Project Ideas
Boredom is a wonderful doorway to creativity, but there's nothing wrong with prompting a brainstorm for summer break projects. You could suggest photography, cooking, starting a band or earning some extra cash. Ask them to text or call their best friends to see if they're interested in collaborating on some of these projects. Be sure to support the process by renting an instrument of your teen's choice or buying the ingredients needed for lemon bars. Pinwheel offers apps to help them tune instruments and pull up new recipes. See if their friends are interested in committing to certain days and times to rock out or create a "Summer 2023" scrapbook project!
2. Rest and Regroup
The school year can cause a lot of stress for our kids; just consider the amount of pressure, assignments, and extra-curriculars our teens see on a daily basis. Encourage your teen to soak in the downtime, focus on their wellbeing, and reconsider their interests. Summer break gives them a chance to not only breathe, but to ask friends about their adventures and hobbies. Attending a jiu jitsu class with a close friend feels much more attainable than trying it alone!