It’s no surprise that most kids look forward to summer vacation all year long. After all, who wouldn’t want more time to relax, have fewer responsibilities and enjoy great weather for fun activities?
While summer should be enjoyable, we also need to think about ways to keep some structure at home. Children’s mental health actually thrives when we give them routines and rules; plus, too much freedom may lead to boredom. When children don’t know what to do, they may gravitate to their smartphones, tablets or laptops, and too much screen time may raise the risk of anxiety, depression or obesity.
An added bonus to a summer routine? The transition back to school will go more easily.
Here are some suggestions of ways to help your child maintain structure this summer:
Looking for more ideas to keep kids mentally healthy over the summer? Head over to OnOurSleeves.org and sign up for our free e-community for weekly emails with a different recommendation from our behavioral health experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. You can also follow us on Instagram or Facebook.
This was a guest post by Ariana Hoet, PhD; Clinical Director of On Our Sleeves® and Pediatric Psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Another Father’s Day is fast approaching. As we prepare to get another pair of funny socks or some sort of weapon needed in our arsenal of weekend warrior tools, let us make this Father’s Day a little different.
As we reflect on being a father, and being a partner, let us take a moment to think about the things we really need more of. Those gifts that will truly make us happier and make a lasting difference in our lives:
While channeling our inner Brene Brown here, it is true. Vulnerability is the “birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.” Imagine the freedom we will truly experience when we let go of anxiety and ask for help. Taking it a step further, the powerful life lesson we pass on to our little ones when they see Dad being vulnerable.
We are currently switching to a big boy bed at home and slowly going into potty training. Vulnerability has never been more evident in our household than now, but it is also a needed companion, as my wife and I navigate these delicate and often messy times.
Like any part of our lives, albeit work, home, extracurricular, etc., we need to find a community of men to share ideas with and to learn from. Maybe your dad still calls the remote “the clicker” and talks about the days of Reagan, but imagine the wealth of knowledge he can pass down on to you as a dad. Think about those friends who had kids before you and the years ahead they are on potty training, travel soccer and college prep. Pick their brains, learn from them.
We began our podcast and partnered with local dad blog CBUS Dads to ensure we were part of a community trying to learn more and be the best versions of themselves. Blindly beginning a podcast, but meeting so many amazing people along the way has been worth the countless hours put into this passion project. It may be challenging at first to find, but is worth its weight in gold, nuggets of information shared among like minded people.
We need to stand up and stand out on things that hold us back from truly "dadding." Like more changing tables in men’s rooms and gender-neutral bathrooms at our favorite public places. Teaming up with CBUS Dads, we are currently hosting a Dadvocate for Change campaign advocating for just this. We have talked to businesses, had conversations with elected officials and even partnered with mom-owned Pluie, who has hit the Columbus market with the first of its kind self-sanitizing changing table.
Families come in all different shapes and sizes, meaning there are many more areas of our communities and psyche we need to Dadvocate for. We have had numerous stay-at-home dads on our podcast who shared the unchartered waters of striking up conversations with moms typically at playgrounds, while attempting not to look like they are making a pass at them. Imagine a Dad trying to get his child into a playgroup but is left out because Mom is not a part of it. We all can give the gift of Dadvocating for change!
Sure, another bottle of bourbon from a local distiller is never frowned upon and anything to help up the lawn mowing game is always a strong gift, but let us take a moment this month to look at what gift(s) will truly help us this year.
Stay strong Dadass.
-Matt Lofy, Regular Contributor
We’ve all been there with kids, whether it’s in the car, at home or even at the park; no matter where you are, kids seem to find a way to use the phrase “I’m bored.” Your first instinct may be to supply them with an endless supply of ideas, after all we are here to help, right? I’m here to encourage you to simply respond by acknowledging their statement and feelings, but allow them to figure out what comes next. This might sound something like “I’m really sorry to hear that, I know I don’t like feeling that way. You are so creative I know you’ll figure something out!” There are two parts to this answer that are important:
By validating their feelings they will feel heard and seen. Sometimes we might feel frustrated at the very idea that they could be bored given all the things they have at their disposal for entertainment. We also may be having a time where things are busy in our adult lives and might even feel a slight bit of wishing our lives would slow down enough to feel bored. Try to recognize that feeling as your own and leave space for their feeling too. Remember, they are used to being in school with their friends all day where they do art, PE, swimming, reading, recess, and more. Summer time is a big shift for them so they are adjusting to a slower pace. If we respond negatively to their statement this immediately shuts down conversation as well as any bit of creativity they might have (and they’ll need that later to fix the boredom). Having your feelings shut down never feels good so try to remember to always start with a statement that validates what they are feeling, it will open a connection and make them feel as though you are listening to them.
Encouraging without suggesting is where things get tricky. As adults who care for children we often want to see them happy, healthy and thriving. The desire to see them happy can place us in the role of fixer of problems. Stepping in to help guide a child and assist them in fixing a problem has a time and place, but I am here to tell you this is not one of them. When we start suggesting solutions to their boredom problem we are unintentionally reinforcing the idea that they cannot fix the problem themselves. We are taking away their power as intelligent, creative, capable beings that can navigate their way through this feeling. By reminding them of some of their strengths and encouraging them to use them to solve the problem on their own you are telling them “you got this, I believe in you.”
Summer is an amazingly fun time for many children. Remember, bored is not a dirty word, just a skill that needs to be intentionally developed and cultivated. By encouraging them to use the skills they already possess, we are helping them to trust themselves to solve their own problems. Feeling bored can increase a child’s creativity, problem solving skills and much more. I sincerely hope your summer is filled with many fun activities and enjoyable experiences - with a little boredom too!
-Shaun Ditty, Regular Contributor
Full disclaimer to start: I acknowledge, it’s odd to reflect about Christmas in June, but these have been strange times, so I’m going with it.
I recently stumbled on notes I took the night of December 25, 2020. This was the first I’d seen them in nearly 18 months. I forgot I documented every aspect of that day, but upon discovery, I recall being moved to do so, because I was thankful for that day.
The notes outlined that we played board games and watched A Christmas Story, my all time favorite holiday movie. The gifts ranged from much-needed golf lessons for me, camping equipment for my baby girl, legos and monster trucks for my son, and horseback riding lessons, personalized stationery, and of course, an American Girl doll for my oldest daughter. The wife and I indulged in mimosas and cheese strata in the morning, and our Christmas feast included brussel sprouts, scalloped potatoes, dinner rolls, and ham.
None of these details are overly important, although I have dreams of Christmas ham 365 days a year.
After reviewing my notes after a year and a half, there were three particular themes that were significant if not downright special about this day:
That holiday was special, despite not seeing extended family or friends, which is sad and not customary. My family of five made the most of it, and in the process, developed new, unplanned traditions and made unforgettable memories that I’m forever grateful for and enjoyed recalling - even on the cusp of summer.
-Steve Michalovich, Regular Contributor
CBUS Dads is a community of central Ohio area dads balancing an active lifestyle with being an involved parent. A Saturday for us may involve enjoying morning t-ball, lunch at a new local spot and an evening at a summer festival with our families. We may live downtown, in the suburbs or somewhere between, but our common thread is that we continue to experience the community we love - now as parents.