Summer plans falling apart? Dr. G says it’s time to get creative

Pools, spray parks, camps — all part of many kids’ ideas of a great summer. And while some places hope to open later this summer, many will be closed.

Parenting expert, Dr. Debi Gilboa, or Dr. G, says it’s normal for kids to grieve this loss.

“This is a real loss of connection with friends. Camps, for example, and other summer projects. What they usually give our kids, in addition to a break from the stress of academics, are connection, purpose, independence and fun. Like, no strings attached fun!”

Dr. G says parents first need to empathize with their kids’ feelings of loss.

But, she says then ask them what feelings and experiences they get from the activities they traditionally enjoy in summer.

“Let’s be creative and see if you, or we, can figure out ways to get some of those feelings and those experiences into this summer, without parameters that we thought we have.”

For an athletic kid whose sports camp is canceled, encourage her or him to find out how professional athletes are training alone and connect with those players on social media for training tips. If overnight camp is canceled, do Zoom sleepovers with friends.

“Instead of replicating, talk about shifting toward the same goals with different means.”

And with many pools and spray parks closed, sprinklers and Slip ‘N Slides will be popular. Dr. G says always put it back on the kids.

“Parents are remarkably bad at knowing what will be fun to our kids because they change developmental stages and interests pretty quickly. So that’s where I would ask your kids to become your program directors.”

That means put kids in charge of one hour, one day or one week with a budget and parameters, and let them plan activities for the family or friends.

And Dr. G reminds us that all of this is teaching our kids resilience.

This story is part of the Kidsburgh Mental Health Series, funded by a grant from the Staunton Farm Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of people who live with mental illness and/or substance use disorders. The Foundation’s vision is to invest in a future where behavioral health is understood, supported, and accepted.