If, like many American students, your child is transitioning from the "school year," to "summer vacation," you may be surprised when it's not all backyard adventures and laughter. For Elementary children, though, the mix of summer adventures often brings with it new challenges in the most important areas of their lives: their social world.
As children spend more time in summer activities, they are often exposed to more children or different groupings of children than they've come to expect during the school year. You might wonder why your Elementary child seems to have a new best friend every week, or why the drama at summer camp seems to be more intense than you experienced during the year. Remember that, while your goals for them over the summer may be to learn that new sport or relax at camp, their intrinsic goals at this age will usually be first about their friends.
Be prepared for it: when your child comes home from summer experiences, give them space to reflect and make sense of what happened with other kids during the day. Avoid pressuring them about their friendships, but make sure to give them room to talk if they need to. If they've been in Montessori programs during the school year and are in more traditional summer settings, they may miss the social support that Montessori teachers are so adept at offering. Elementary aged children can sometimes been generalized in far more simple ways than we know they really are, and the conflicts that are important to them might not get the same time or space to resolve as they have come to expect during the school year. Check in with them to see how things are going socially and, if the answer is, "not so well," support them in brainstorming ways they want to try to make it better.
And yes, know that they'll also learn that sport or participate in camp or develop any of the skills you had in mind when you chose summer programs for them. Elementary children are generally very active, engaged multitaskers, and summer is no different. If the day activities are active, outdoors or heavily play-centered, make time at home for quiet time as a family, reading together or drawing or otherwise being present for each other without making too many demands. Your child is likely to be more tired and less self-restrained in the summer. They'll have just as many big thoughts but they may have fewer places to make sense of them all. Add to that dehydration and a growth spurt or two, and they'll need you to be the patient, loving and quiet presence at the end of the day.
And if your summer responsibilities allow it of you, make sure you make time not just to vacation as a family, but to be as a family. Your child doesn't need the expensive trips or hassled travel nearly as much as they need your attention and your curiosity. Whether you create a list together of low or no-cost activities you want to achieve as a family, or you just make it a regular part of every day to sit with your child after dinner to talk or play cards, use this time to remind your child how important connecting as a family is for you, whether you ever spend a dime to make it happen.