Parkway e-News Story

Making the Most of Family Time this Summer

Local student surveys suggest that our children want to succeed, desire to please and, as they age, often feel increasing pressures and insecurities about their abilities to accomplish these things. Kids and parents alike often look forward to summer months as a time to relax and have fun. Yet, many families find themselves as busy during the summer as at any point in the school year and not entirely certain that much was accomplished by summer’s end.

Children require a lot of assets to become successful. School success reflects on a broad range of assets that can be sorted into two categories of experience: who a child believes they are among the people around them and what it is a child believes he/she is capable of doing with confidence. Summer break can be used to enhance both sets of these critical abilities and confidences. 

To access some practical ideas about how to maximize the potential of summer break, we interviewed Ms. Kim Dressel, currently a guidance counselor at Wren Hollow Elementary and a Parkway veteran who has previously served middle and high school students and their families. Ms. Dressel is a licensed clinical social worker working with families in community settings as well.

Q. What are the most important considerations for families seeking to maximize summer break time?

A. There are three priority areas I encourage parents, and children, to be aware of when planning and managing the time during summer break: have fun together, continue learning together and grow stronger as a family. My emphasis on “together” reflects the fact that summer schedules, with parents working, summer camps and summer school, too often perpetuate “separateness” that robs children of the connections and self-confidence they need for success. 

Q. Are there specific suggestions you make that can help families do better at “together”?

A. Sure! Here are several ideas:

  • Unplug together for some period of time every day. For instance, have family meal times be phone and tablet free.
  • READ. Families who read together, or discuss what they’re reading, tend to produce reading children. Internet reading can qualify. Discussing what is being read is a great way to build the strength of family relationships.
  • Plan and do together. Be it vacations, day trips or “around the house” tasks, planning and doing things together not only strengthens family bonds, but can also be a great way to foster skills in goal setting, frustration tolerance, problem solving and team work. No, kids aren’t usually excited about doing chores, but they are more likely to do things together. Plus, doing things together can reduce expectations of being paid for chores.

Q. Are there ways to measure if kids and parents are developing important assets on which they can build for the future?

A. There are a number of measures parents can use to observe progress in their child’s asset development. First, the frequency and quality of family conversations can reflect asset development. If conversations reflect what someone is reading, a goal pursued, fun activities and shared interests, it can be indicative of growing connections between children and parents; connections that will be increasingly important as children age. Increased capabilities in working together, including a child’s/teen’s voice and initiative, can reflect growing confidence in contributing to others. Certainly, when you observe a child’s transferring previous learning to current life experience, i.e., helping plan a menu or teaching mom how to better use her device, such observations suggest that a child’s “sense of place” has expanded and that they enjoy using and sharing their capabilities.

Certainly, the summer can’t be used to accomplish everything, but if parents consciously emphasize these priorities they can be confident of moving their children and their family forward for the better.