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My Kids Have Nothing to Do This Summer. Now What?

You aren’t alone! Day-to-day life without structure and routine is hard. We human beings are creatures of habit, and when our routines are disrupted, we tend to feel anxious and agitated. This “Dear Christine” column in Greater Good Magazine offers tips for structuring your family’s summer during the pandemic.

So, here’s the goal: Do something productive every day. Also, get into some semblance of a routine.

Even though your kids probably feel like there is “nothing to do,” they are going to feel better if they make themselves useful or do something creative every day. People feel good about the things that they do well. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have other sources of good feelings, but, truly, there is no other source of self-esteem than doing something—anything—well.

This summer offers a chance to get involved in a meaningful cause. It could be through protest or activism, or it could be through learning, growth, and self-reflection, which are also productive foundations for social change.

And the goals we set for the summer should rest on that foundation. The key here is not to set goals for our kids, but using non-controlling, non-directive language, we can ask our kids questions about what they want.  What do they want to accomplish? What helps them feel like they are productive members of society, and of the family? What can they do every day to improve a skill that they value?

Key to accomplishing these goals is creating routines around them.

Developing a daily routine is about deciding how you will spend your time. More specifically, it’s about deciding what you will do and when you will do it. The key is to decide on these things one time instead of trying to figure out how to structure your day/week/summer every morning. Once constructed, we can lean on that structure to guide our daily life.

I like to think about our daily activities in terms of five big buckets:

  • Physical. How will we get some exercise? Is there something athletic we’d like to train for? How can we move our bodies throughout the day?
  • Emotional. How can we care for our psychological health by bringing some enjoyment into our daily life? How can we foster positive emotions like gratitude or awe?
  • Social. How can we connect with the people around us? With creativity and determination, now that it is summer this can be done outdoors in ways that lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
  • Cognitive. What are they interested in reading? Learning more about? Can they get a jumpstart on their AP reading or SAT prep so they have less to worry about in the fall?
  • Spiritual or humanitarian. This is where our daily routine can connect back to engaging in something that brings us meaning or connects us to something larger than ourselves. Teens who provide tangible, emotional, or informational support to people in crises tend to feel more strongly connected to their community.

Creating an ideal day that includes each of these aspects of well-being gives us something concrete to shoot for in a world of uncertainty.

Excerpted from “My Kids Have Nothing to Do This Summer. Now What?” in Greater Good Magazine. Read the full article. “Dear Christine” is a column written by Christine Carter, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at U.C. Berkeley.

Source: Greater Good Magazine | My Kids Have Nothing to Do This Summer. Now What?, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/my_kids_have_nothing_to_do_this_summer_now_what | © 2020 The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley

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