When school gets out, the days with your kids at home can seem long and endless. It's all too easy for parents to get complacent and give into the "lazy days of summer." But that laziness shouldn't be the norm.
Here are five ways you could be hurting your kids this summer - and what you can do to help them instead.
Letting your kids' brains go on summer vacation
Summer means a break from school, but that doesn't mean your children's days should be completely devoid of intellectual pursuits. Leanna Landsman, a teacher and education writer explains: "Without stimulating activities to keep kids' brains in gear during the lazy days of summer, their new knowledge gets hazy." As she points out, "studies find that students who 'veg out' during vacation show little or no academic growth over summer, at best. At worst, they lose one to three months of learning."
To beat the summer brain drain, look into summer programs at local museums, zoos, bookstores, parks and recreation departments, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, local universities, private preschools, and other institutions - "especially those with education departments," Landsman advises.
Excusing your kids from responsibility
Just because it's called "summer vacation" doesn't mean the kids should treat your home like a hotel and you like a maid. A lack of rules and responsibility can lead to a sense of entitlement, demanding and disrespectful behavior, and an inability to achieve goals and succeed in life. Assigning age-appropriate chores and responsibilities to your children - and ensuring that they follow through - can help them develop self-discipline, confidence and compassion for those they help.
"Chores can also teach children how to plan their own time, taking into consideration others' needs, limits and responsibilities," says Jeremy Todd, chief executive of the national helpline Parentline Plus. "They teach children about the consequences of their actions and encourage them to think about what they do, and don't do, in the course of the day."
Giving your kids too much screen time
Spending too long in front of the TV, computer, or other electronic device is not just metaphorically melting your kids' brains, it may be harming them physically and psychologically.
Set limits on the amount of time your children - and you - can spend in front of a screen. When screen time is up (or before it begins), send your kids outside to play in the sun, take them to the park, or explore the neighborhood together. Anything that's physically engaging will help your kids be more physically and emotionally healthier.
Skipping family time
During the school year it's easy for conflicting schedules and extracurricular activities to get in the way of spending time together as a family. But when school is out and activities are put on hold for the season, there's no excuse for not re-engaging as a family at least once every day. According to psychologist Donna Dawson, "Shared family time offers emotional and psychological rewards. Partners need time with each other in order to strengthen their relationship, while children need time with their parents in order to mature into well-balanced adults."
Summer is the perfect time to plan quality time together, whether it's daily dinner time, a weekly family date, or an annual family vacation. These shared activities strengthen family bonds and provide the structure and security children need to thrive, whether you're making a cross-country road trip or just having fun outside.
Planning activities every moment
On the other end of the spectrum, planning too many activities not only feeds into the entitlement mentality, but it also inhibits their ability to entertain themselves and make their fun - which doesn't just drive moms crazy, it can cause serious developmental issues later in life. "A lack of opportunities for unstructured, imaginative play can keep children from growing into happy, well-adjusted adults," according to Scientific American. "'Free play,' as scientists call it, is critical for becoming socially adept, coping with stress and building cognitive skills such as problem-solving."
Summer is the perfect time to give your kids more opportunities for free play.
"Our children need to be bored," writes mom and blogger Kristen Welch. "They need to be sent outside or to their rooms to play. They need to turn over the bag of tricks and find it empty. Because that's when they will discover they don't need stuff to fill their time. They don't need a plan for entertainment. They can create their own. And that's when summer gets magical."
Whatever your plans are this summer, do your kids a favor and let them enjoy all that summer has to offer. Del Sol provides a perfect recipe for summer fun. Visit DelSol.com for cool color-changing hats, sunglasses, shirts and more and give your kids just what they need this summer.