3 creative tips to help your child use the summer downtime in a positive way

June 16th, 2011

The end of the school year signals a time for summer camps, pool parties, vacations, and lots more downtime. During this time of year you may find that arguments diminish over homework and getting things done, however you may wonder if there are some areas you can help support your child so they get along better with their siblings, there is less drama with their peers, and any worries or power struggles can be reduced when it is time to head back to school.

I’ve actually had more families reaching out for support, and many of them want to use the time between now and the start of school to help their child learn new coping strategies and positive ways to communicate for the upcoming  school year.

Here are 3 creative tips to help your child use the summer downtime in a positive way:

1. Help your child transform their relationship with you. Depending upon the age of your child you may begin to notice that your child is becoming more disrespectful, annoyed at you for asking for what you need; you may even notice they are rolling their eyes, or just plain ignoring you. Take the time during the summer to begin to shift the dynamics between you and your child. Notice when your child is being disrespectful and start to point out how they are behaving. Your child may be unaware of how they are treating you and if they are treating you disrespectfully.  Let them know what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.

2. Help your child change their relationships with their siblings. During the summertime there are fewer structured activities, and you may notice your child becoming easily bored and then they start to pick-on their siblings. Yes, children may annoy their sibling because they are bored (among other reasons)! So now is the time to help your children change how they are relating to each other. If you have younger child sit down and create a list of the house rules and include your children in the process and  allow them to draw image of each of the rules. Use this opportunity to discuss consequences to negative behaviors, such as ending a game if the siblings cannot come up with a way to play together without arguing. For older children, ask them to come up with some ideas for consequences if they continue to argue when you ask them to stop. You’ll be surprised at what creative ideas they have. Write down the rules and consequences clearly and refer to them when a problem arises, and ask your children what other ways can they handle the argument?

3. Help your child develop strategies to manage their frustrations over friendship drama during the school year. Your child may have some struggles with picking friends, playing cooperatively, or they seem to be involved in a lot of friendship drama. Now is the time to work on these concerns. Sign your child up for camps or programs that encourage lots of cooperative play and flexibility, enroll your child in a social skill program, or work with a therapist to help your child find new coping strategies for friendship difficulties.

I find that many parents are concerned about having their child work 1:1 with a therapist when the issues their child is having is with their peers. Art therapy tends to be a better solution than talk therapy to help children with social interactions. Younger children can play out different ways to respond to a problem with the art materials such as clay. Older children can create images of how the feel and process these feelings so they are not stuck repeating the same behaviors over and over again and feeling rejected or hurt by peers. Also, children learn how to cope with frustrations when problems arise during the session. So when the paining doesn’t look like what your child wanted it to look like, or the glue on the project doesn’t stick, they can practice the skills they are learning right there.

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