Supporting Parents. Fostering Change.

Monthly Archives: May 2013

Remember when you were a child and you couldn’t wait for school to end and the long days of summer to begin? I would bet that you never wondered what school ending meant for your parents. As a kid, that was not a concern of yours. Now that you are a parent yourself, summer probably has a whole new meaning. While it can mean more flexibility and less dragging people out of bed at the crack of dawn, summer poses its own unique challenges in the form of large blocks of unstructured time for your children. Summer days can lead to the dreaded, “I’m bored.” or “I just want to play Xbox.”

How can you make the most out of these summer months?

First thing, take a deep breath. You are at the end of another academic year with your child. You need time to reflect on this accomplishment, both for your child and for you. The stress and pressure for children to excel in school, both socially and academically can be enormous. Your child has succeeded in moving on to another school year. Congratulations to you both!

In terms of the summer, have you thought about what you’d like for it to look like? Have you and your child sat down to discuss how each of you views the summer? Take some time to talk with your child about summer goals. Build in activities that meet your child’s goals as well as your own. Remember to schedule in time to be together and times to be apart. This may be a good time to set parameters around how much “screen time” will be allowed daily as well as how much reading time is expected.

If you are not sure where to begin with making the plans for your child for the summer, here are some practical suggestions for your family to create a “Summer Survival Tool Kit”.

  • Plan play dates. Put them on the calendar so your child can look forward to them.
  • Generate a list of outdoor activities that you and your child enjoy. They can be things like bike riding, swimming, going to a playground, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, playing in a sprinkler or even making a lemonade stand. Agree on some activities s/he can do alone and ones that you can do with him/her.
  • Make a list of indoor activities in case of rain. Create a box filled with art supplies, paint, drawing paper, clay, and Play Doh. Tell spooky stories, make a fort with pillows, put on a play and videotape it, create a summer picture album with your child. ​
  • Consider a day camp for part of the summer.
  • Take a few outings a week which are both educational and inexpensive like visiting museums or children’s festivals, battlefields or other historic places.
  • Try to limit electronics and create opportunities for your child to earn time to play with them by doing chores or first playing outdoors.

By spending just a little time planning for the summer months, you will feel less anxious and more able to share in your child’s end-of-school joy.

Who knows? You may even look forward to it!

By Cathi Cohen, LCSW, CGP

Posted in Parenting | Comments off

Dear Cathi,

My son, Eric, is starting kindergarten next fall. I’m not sure who is less ready; him or me. He is a very bright child. The academics will be no problem for him. But, his behavior is another story. Eric’s pre-school teachers say that he has trouble sitting still during circle time. He frequently disrupts the class by getting into his classmates’ space and interrupting the flow of the class. I realize that the expectations for appropriate behavior go up in kindergarten, and I’m unsure if Eric will navigate the change well. Are there ways that I can help prepare him for this transition over the summer? Any ideas would be helpful.


Jackie S.

Dear Jackie,

Beginning elementary school is a huge milestone for both you and Eric. Congratulations!
Summer is a perfect time to practice the social skills needed for Eric to transition into kindergarten smoothly. He will be more successful if he practices some self-management skills as well as ways to cope with frustration because difficult circumstances inevitably arise at school. The kindergarten teacher will also want him to communicate what he needs with words rather than actions, and he will be expected to take turns and share space and materials with other children.
There are several ways you can encourage school readiness at home. First and foremost, of course, is modeling. Children learn through modeling after adult behavior. Every time, you express your own feelings appropriately, you are modeling for Eric. You also do this every time you listen carefully to him without interrupting and when you stay calm when you are coping with your own frustrations. As his parent, you also teach him respect for authority by not allowing him to speak to you or others with disrespect.
Eric, like all children, learns best when he feels confident in his ability to manage his behavior and his emotions. Whenever you allow him to do things independently, you are telling Eric that you trust that he can do it. When you notice out loud the efforts he makes to do things on his own, you are reinforcing positive behavior. “You did a great job of picking up your toys without my telling you!” “You got ready all by yourself. I’m very happy about that.”
Children learn best by modeling and through consistent practice. Build into every day routines over the summer some of the skills he will need to succeed in kindergarten. For example, ask Eric to follow your one and two-step directions to accomplish chores. When he does, praise him for listening to you and doing what you asked. He will be expected to follow teacher’s directions when he gets to school so you help him practice these skills in a natural way by incorporating them into your every day agenda.
Offer him frequent opportunities to socialize with groups of children. These social times offer him the opportunity to practice such skills as using his words, sharing, and compromise. When you are present, you can praise appropriate social behavior. When you are not, Eric is learning how to play independently which is excellent preparation for the transition to school. In addition, quiet times at home allow Eric to self-manage. He learns to entertain himself and use his own imagination to have fun.
If you feel that your modeling and practice efforts are not enough, you may want to consider a more formal social skills training program like Stepping Stones. In this program, you and Eric both learn necessary skills for school. A kindergarten readiness group therapist breaks down the skills into manageable parts that are learned in group and then practiced at home.
Most importantly, get Eric excited about kindergarten. Let him know what a friendly place school is and how well he is going to do there. Even if you have reservations about this transition, “never let him see you sweat”. He will take the cue from you that things are going to be OK, and that you know he can do it. Express your confidence in his ability to be successful in school!

By Cathi Cohen, LCSW, CGP

Posted in Dear Cathi, Social Skill Development | Comments off