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Summer Vacation, Children and Adolescents

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Do you remember that wonderful song from "Porgy and Bess," "Summer time and the livin is easy, fish are jumpin and the cotton is high, your Poppa’s rich and your Momma’s good lookin, hush little baby, don’t you cry…"

That wonderful show was written about a different time and a different type of life. It was not a better type of life, but it was very different. How is summer time different today?

When America was primarily an agricultural society, summer vacation from school was meant to provide families with the extra hands of children on the farm to help with the entire process of farming. Despite the fact that we are in a post industrial age in which our society has become highly technological, we retain the custom of closing our school for ten weeks between the end of June and beginning of September. This will vary from state to state and from community to community depending on when it is decided that schools close and re open.

This ten week gap in education has presented a dilemma for many families who do not know how to keep their children occupied and out of trouble for that length of time. In addition, it has been a well established fact that many children lose the gains that they made in reading and math during this long interruption in their educational routine.

There are families, especially those with the financial means to do so, who send their children to camps for eight of the ten weeks. In those camps, children either learn to become athletic or strengthen their skills. They also get to swim, escape the boredom and heat of the big cities and enjoy a taste of country life in the mountains where many of these camps are located.

Some families who are unable to afford this are still able to send their children to camp for one or two weeks through the "Y" or some other religious organization.

However, most children come from families who are not able to provide this type of experience for their youngsters. In addition, adolescents are usually not interested in this type of experience. In point of fact, it is the adolescent who presents the greatest challenge to families during the summer vacation.

The challenge presented by teenagers is that, with a lot of unstructured time available to them, their is a lot of opportunity to get into trouble. In a society in which single parent families have become the norm and in which both parents work full time, there is little or no supervision for this age group. Some family members make the terrible mistake of thinking that teens do not need supervision because they are independent.

In a society where drugs are available to and being abused by many young people, it is dangerous to assume that they will be safe during the ten weeks of summer if there are no adults around and nothing for them to do. Yes, some young people are able to get summer jobs and a few have parents who are able to provide employment for them through the family business. However, none of this is available to large numbers of teenagers.

The purpose of this posting is to alert, remind and urge parents of children of all ages to provide structured time during the summer.

Also, in your opinion, is it time that we extended the school year so that our children do not run the risk of losing what they have gained in reading and math skills?

Your comments are welcome.

Keep Reading By Author Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
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