By Sam Grabelle
In the 1980’s, The Motels sang about a fateful summer in their catchy hit, “Suddenly Last Summer,” This, too, will be a fateful summer. We have no idea what it will hold and what the world will look like when it’s over.
The most inevitable part of summer is that it ends. Too soon. Every year. But this year, nothing is inevitable. So how do we plan? Without the usual schedule of camps, events and group activities, what will our children DO?
That’s easy. They’ll be children. And they’ll do all the things they do every summer. We just have to look at the summer through their eyes.
What do they usually see in the summertime?
Sun. Water. Sand. Bathing suits. Shorts. Ice cream. Fireflies. Trees. Flowers. Butterflies.
They’ll still get to see all of those things.
What do they usually do in the summertime?
Grow. Run. Eat. Play. Learn. Pedal. Swim. Rest. Smile.
They’ll still get to do all of those things.
Everything that will be different is in the details. And that is our challenge as parents – how to make the details work so they still get to see and do all of the things they love about summer. Here are six ideas to get you started.
- Create a theme for the summer. Brainstorm as a family to come up with an overall theme and then an individual one for each person. The family theme might be “Relaxation” while a child’s theme might be “Silliness” or “Robots”. If it’s too hard to come up with just one – that’s a good thing! If you want to be a bit more serious, you might think about themes that have to do with the challenges we are all facing and pick a theme like “Social Justice” or “Environmental Awareness”.
- Use the themes to inspire indoor and outdoor activities from crafts, to scavenger hunts, to hikes, to songwriting and anything in between. Make an activity jar or re-purpose a photo album by filling the pages with ideas. There is a lot being offered online so you’ll definitely want to take advantage of some of it. Once you know your family’s comfort level with public activities, add those in too. Having a theme will spark creativity, but it will also help everyone avoid getting overwhelmed with all of the options and decisions.
- Plan at least one or two big projects that will span the summer. Without the usual plans and outings, we need to build in other ways to grow and learn and to feel good. Accomplishing a project builds confidence and self-esteem. Working together – especially siblings – keeps us connected in positive ways with those we may end up spending a little too much time with.
- Incorporate journaling into your weekly routine. If every day is too much, try for three days. There are a ton of great summer journaling ideas on Pinterest, including printable pages. There are some inexpensive options on Amazon or at your local bookstore. Look for writing and/or drawing prompts or make up your own. I love ones that support continuing development of math, writing and reading skills. Think of the prompts as morning activity starters as well as evening reflections. Staying in the moment and reflecting on the positive is healthy – but so is sharing our fears and sadness.
- Consider starting the summer with a reflection on the school year with all its ups and downs. Create a way to remember and celebrate the year. Perhaps a video or photo yearbook. Focus on the good things that happened but it is also very important to allow children to mourn what they lost.
- Don’t forget to take lots of pictures! They might not be at the usual places or doing the usual things – but they will be even more precious because they will remind us that life didn’t stop.
When suddenly it’s last summer, I hope you and your family can look back on it all with laughter and joy about what you were able to do with it despite the constraints and challenges.