Healthy Kids - Summer 2021


So what can parents do now to help get their kids back on track? With some families still feeling the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic, the usual summer activities may not be as feasible. However, kids do have opportunities to increase socialization and decrease isolation outside of school. Younger kids and those with ADHD or other developmental conditions may benefit from structured camps, classes or day programs, such as those at the Fleet Science Center and YMCA, or at organized private outings for small groups. “There are certainly children that have fallen behind enough that summer school is a really important option, but there are also experiential learning opportunities,” says Kristin Gist, advisor in Developmental Services and Transforming Mental Health at Rady Children’s. She believes we ought to focus less exclusively on remediating the areas where children are falling behind, in favor of identifying the subjects they enjoy and spending the summer working on their strengths. “That gives them more power to feel confident going back to school.” Older kids who tuned out during their distance-learning days may need to refocus on their academic goals, which requires some stress management and reassurance on the parents’ part. “High school kids are going to have the most pressure on them to catch up, because the academics are not as forgiving as they are in the primary grades,” Mueller says. Student athletes may also feel behind, because most sports saw their season schedule postponed or canceled during the pandemic. Gist says that parents usually encourage their child’s interest in sports to keep them active and social, but “they didn’t have an opportunity for a year, so they’ve fallen more behind.” Another way parents can set kids up for success as summer transitions to fall is to stay positive in the face of uncertainty. Warning them that the first year back after the pandemic may be tougher, though true, does nothing for their confidence. A more positive spin could include assurances that they’ll have time to catch up, and that it’ll get easier the more they keep at it. “Those are two different ways to say the exact same thing,” Mueller says, “and how a child hears that is going to be how they perceive coping in the months ahead.” Summer will be an anxious time for kids if they don’t have a positive, healthy outlook on the academic year to come.


Looking Ahead Summer is here, but the start of the school year is just around the corner


very summer, kids get a couple months’ reprieve from the stresses of schoolwork. But between distance learning, COVID-19 rules and restrictions, and the uncertainty


that still remains during this particular summer, many parents are left wondering what comes next. Research shows that when kids have longer breaks from school, some of the knowledge they’d gained to that point is lost. Time will tell what that will look like after a year when students weren’t getting the in-person support, structure and supervision they were used to. “Summer typically brings excitement for wrapping up the school year and anticipation of summer plans with family, friends and activities out in the community,” says Sandy Mueller, senior director of Behavioral Health Services at Rady Children’s. “I think what we’re concerned about is what that looks like for this summer, and what kids and families anticipate moving into the fall. Summer months, which are normally a carefree time, have this sort of storm brewing.”



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