British Columbia·PARENTAL GUIDANCE

For kids and parents, taking time to disengage is especially important this summer

After a year of online learning and strict safety measures in schools, kids and parents are looking forward to a much needed summer break. 

Kids deserve a summer to remember after a strange and stressful school year

Kids and parents all need a summer break — including a break from the worries of COVID-19. (CBC)

The best summer vacations were always the ones where I did absolutely nothing, and yet so much at the same time.

There were lazy days at the beach, long nights watching terrible movies and adventures on my bike with nothing but my imagination.

I haven't always been able to provide my kids with the same free-wheeling weeks of freedom, but this year I really want to let them celebrate their time off from school — and, to a certain degree, the pandemic. 

School work, stress and uncertainty

And it's not just the kids who need a break. For parents who suddenly found themselves as de facto educators, the past school year has been overwhelming.

Nadine Kaye has been responsible for making sure her two daughters made it through their at-home elementary classes, and she is now ready to give up her teacher-of-the-year award forever.

Even though her daughters weren't attending school in person, she really wants them to have a couple months to disengage from it all. 

"I think summer is about having fun and just doing whatever you want to do. Getting outside and not thinking about school, " says Kaye. "Kids need a break from school, just to play and be themselves." 

It's not just the academic side they need to tune out for a couple months. Kids have also been affected by a lot of stress and uncertainty this past year.

Despite how much parents may have tried to shield them from it, our children have been processing a lot of big feelings.

"They absorb all the stuff we're feeling. Even though you try to keep things as happy and light as you can, they feel all that," explains Kaye. 

For kids who have attended in-person classes, this year has been an exhausting mix of safety protocols, reduced interactions with their peers and very few extracurricular activities.

For 14-year-old Kalan Bryan, it was a tough year. 

"It was decently hard to just follow all these restrictions," says Bryan. "We couldn't do a lot of things. There were no sports teams. There wasn't a lot we could do. It was hard, but it's all over now." 

Reading can stem the summer 'brain drain'

Admittedly, some kids do need a bit more mental stimulation than just keeping track of the showcase showdown on The Price is Right.

But there are ways parents can keep their children's brains ticking during the dog days of summer.

Reading, for example, is always an excellent way to keep those brain cells fresh. It's cheap, entertaining and doesn't always feel like school work. 

The B.C. Summer Reading Club is an excellent program featuring lots of online contests and activities that kids of all ages can sign up for at their local community library.

For 31 years, the club has been helping kids stay engaged and entertained over the summer — and all they really want is to help kids realize how fun reading can be. 

"It's not about forcing a child to read a certain book," says Stephanie Usher, the club's provincial co-ordinator. "When you're in school, you're kind of told what you're supposed to read. What Summer Reading Club is really all about is kids picking up books they want to read and enjoying themselves." 

And please stop thinking it needs to be Tolstoy for it to count. Reading is reading — and that can mean anything from an Archie comic to the back of a cereal box. Whatever your child finds interesting is the right choice for them. 

"If your child is picking up a graphic novel and they love what they're reading, then let them read," says Usher. 

This summer, more than ever, we need to let our children, and ourselves, soak up the sun and focus on having fun.

Like dipping our toes in a cold pool, we are all testing out the waters of post-pandemic life. We need to let kids be kids, and that means focusing on friends, adventure and making memories that don't include strict safety measures.

Let this summer be one for the record books — not because of a global catastrophe, but because we finally made it through one, and have come out on the other side. I want freezies and hot dogs and sunscreen-soaked days, and the only lessons I want kids to learn this summer is that it's OK to move out of a truly dark time and let the sunshine in. 

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