So what's to stress about? Maybe plenty. "Children -- and parents -- often find transitions difficult, and the school-to-summer change removes many of the structures, routines, and expectations that children rely on," says Scott L. Barking, a psychologist in Brooklyn, New York, and father of three school-age children.
"Many parents go into summer with a wish and a hope, rather than a plan for what they want to accomplish," says Virginia Shiller, a psychologist in New Haven, Connecticut, and author of Rewards for Kids! (Magination Press). "The end result can be a chaotic household with whining children who complain they're bored, argue with each other, and just generally get in Mom's hair." Here are ways to help your family slip into summer with a minimum of mayhem.
As Shiller says, a successful summer is a well-planned one.
- Let the kids have input when planning summer activities. Suggest outings such as picnic lunches and day-trips to the aquarium or museum to stoke your kids' imaginations, then ask them for their ideas.
- Keep them apprised of camp dates, daycare, family trips, and other plans by giving them a detailed calendar. This helps them visualize what's ahead and how to prepare.
- Set up regular play dates now before vacation schedules make it tough to reach friends, says Jen Singer of Kinnelon, New Jersey, creator of the Web site MommaSaid.net.