Summer Vacation 2020: Tips for talking to kids about a new (not) normal

Camps are cancelled, face masks are the new face paint and trips to the grandparent’s house are a no-go. Here are our tips and tricks for talking to your kids about a new (not) normal.

Summer activities for kids during covid

‘How many days until my birthday?’

‘How many days until school is out?’

‘How many days until I get to go to summer camp?’

‘How many days until Fourth of July?’

‘How many days until Christmas?’

As kids get older, they quickly catch on to the cycle of life and become accustomed to embracing annual family traditions and relishing the switch-up of schedules. From beachside barbecues to roasting marshmallows while camping to attending an Easter service with all the cousins to simply getting to stay with grandma and grandpa for a week; things like family holiday gatherings, annual trips and birthday milestones provide children with something to look forward to, while also helping them form a sense of self. (Lest we forget all the memory making and belly laughs!)

Summer vacation in particular is a time when children are taken out of the familiar school setting and often given the opportunity to enter new social settings like summer camp, youth groups, and kids clubs. When faced with the challenge of needing to introduce themselves, form friendships, try new activities and possibly even sleep away from home, children get to build their confidence, practice problem-solving, hone their communication skills, develop empathy and participate in all types of play. Depending on their parents’ work schedules, they might get to have extra one on one time, which helps with familial bonds and opens the floor for important life talks.

But what happens when there is a global pandemic and suddenly school is cancelled, camps are cancelled, playgrounds are cancelled, trips are cancelled and even worse – birthday parties are cancelled? How do we, as parents, explain that just because our ‘normal’ activities are cancelled doesn’t mean LIFE is cancelled?

 

The answer: we set expectations from the start and talk about ALL THE GOOD in the world. 

As parents ourselves, we’re all about helping other parents. Below are our tips and tricks for making Summer 2020, that little bit easier.

 

Tip #1: Set the Scene

Look, this summer isn’t going to be completely stress-free. Chances are you’re still trying to work from home (aka still trying to find a room that doesn’t have toys and tears as the background for your Zoom call) and your kids are desperate to see their friends and proclaiming that, ‘Life’s not fair!’ While we totally get the frustration, it doesn’t help to sweep it under the rug. Acknowledge that things are going to look *AND FEEL* different.

For example: Find a time to chat to your child about WHY things are cancelled. Children can be inherently selfish and tend to think things are solely happening ‘to them’ or ‘because of them.’ First things first, let them know that Summer 2020 isn’t cancelled BECAUSE of them. Secondly, children are smart and can understand a lot more than you think. Talk to them about COVID-19 and why social-distancing is the best way for our country to flatten the curve TOGETHER.

 

Tip #2: Point out who else life is changing for

Acknowledge that they’re not the only child who is missing getting to see their friends, family and indulge in a triple scoop of double choc chip ice cream at their favorite vacation spot. Acknowledge that you’re sad too. But then lead by example by showing them how you’re able to find new ways to adapt and enjoy a summer at home.

 

Tip #3: Ask Questions

After you’re confident that your child understands why we have to change the way we’re living to help protect ourselves and loved ones from COVID-19, ask them how they feel. Really listen. When children feel heard and understood, it helps them feel safe and comfortable. By validating their feelings, they will be more likely to face their fears and pivot when needed, which will help them become more resilient.

 

Tip #4: Redirect Emotions

Just like when a toddler is throwing a tantrum, try using redirection to get your child out of their funk. While we love talking about our feelings, sometimes kids just need a distraction. (There’s only so much sulking one can do in their room when there is an impromptu FAMILY WATER BALLOON FIGHT in the backyard!)

Ideas include:

  • Gratitude activities: Have your child audibly say three things that they’re grateful for. By making expressions of gratitude a daily practice, your child will be able to practice mindfulness, which will help them focus on all the positives in their life.
  • Arts + Crafts: Offering your child playdough or a quiet place to color can give them the opportunity to work through emotions and express themselves creatively. Try prompting them to draw a picture for a beloved friend or family member.
  • Call a friend: Sometimes kids just need to see a dear friend or speak to a loving auntie! Suggest a video chat!

 

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Tip #5: Offer an Alternative

There’s a good chance your child’s summer camp may have had plans to take your child on an adventure of a lifetime on the Appalachian Trail. However, social distancing doesn’t mean ALL outdoor adventures are closed! Find a new path to travel by searching for national parks or swimming holes that are open and operating under COVID-19 Safe Standards.

While we don’t love the ideas of our kids being on screens all the time, we definitely feel like there are exceptional times and this is one of them! Raising a little maker? There are some incredibly crafting tutorials on Pinterest and YouTube they can try!

We’re also super into giving our kids activities that provide an immersive experience such as a veggie patch kit or device that lets your tot create their very own story to listen to! (Don’t worry, the latter can be used with headphones!)

 

 

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Tip #6: Find a New Way To Keep Traditions Alive

Better yet – make new traditions!

If driving to your parents’ beach house for a 4th of July Clam Bake this year is a no-go, perhaps you can try creating or finding your own special recipes to make with your family.

Always go camping? Why not set up a tent in your backyard for an entire weekend?

 

Tip #7: Stay Connected

Humans need other humans. It’s more important than ever to help your children maintain their friendships. While we’ve been doing a ton of FaceTime playdates and yelling from yard to yard, we’ve also embraced letter writing.

Encourage your children to write, draw, make, read and share!

 

 

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