COVID Summer Can Still be Fun for You and Your Gifted Kids Here's How.
It’s summer time once again, but this one isn’t quite like the others. It’s the same in the sense we parents are tasked with engaging our creative, bright and intense kids everyday for the next few months without losing our minds. However, this year is different for a few very important reasons.
First, many of us have been doing this for several months already, and now school is out, with more months to follow. Who knows if there is even an end in sight? On top of this, many of our go to options like special camps, play dates, family outings and vacations aren’t available due to the pandemic. We have all worked to adjust to the changes, live with disappointments, sit with our grief and maintain some semblance of normal to create a sense of balance for ourselves and our children. Sadly, this year, summer may be more daunting, and feeling like a bit of a let down for many.
Fortunately, this isn’t the end of the story. While you and your family may be suffering from “cabin fever”, it is still possible to make the most of your time together, and your children and teen’s time off.
For my family, summer has always been a challenge. When my son was in elementary school, my job had little flexibility and my husband worked full time. My son hated all of the day camps, except for the ones that were only a few hours and taught something specific, like cooking, or workshop type camps where he could spend 8 hours a day honing his programming skills. Unfortunately, these camps could not fill up the summer. I was grateful when I moved into private practice and could schedule my work schedule around my son’s needs. This eliminated the need for so much day care, but did not eliminate the need for alleviating boredom. Perhaps many of you can relate.
My husband and I are fortunate to be able to work from home. This doesn’t eliminate the need for child engagement and supervision. The options of hanging out with friends, going on outings or to special camps are gone, but not as much of a problem as I thought it might be. The summer had a slow start, due to the months of struggling with distance learning and being at home day after day. When summer started, it was more like a thud than a balloon lifting into the sky. My son, and many other kids I know, started waking up late, and sliding into a comma of playing video games every spare second of the day. Fortunately, that only lasted the first week for my family, but I have talked to many kids who are still struggling. For me and my family, the part of summer I find glorious has finally begun.
What is this glorious summer secret you might ask? It’s simple, really. It’s time. Time to create, time to have fun and time to learn in new and interesting ways. Sadly, time can also feel like a prison. If your bored, lonely, anxious, depressed or otherwise struggling, the hours of the day can seem to last forever.
Here are a few ideas to help lift the weight of managing the stay at home days of summer, and some great online resources to increase the fun.
Improve Mental Health
Spend some 1:1 face time with your child and teen doing something you both enjoy. Show an interest in what they are interested in, even if it means they’re teaching you something. This is great for your relationship, their self esteem and is another way to reinforce learning.
Do something outside whenever possible. Going for walks, sitting and playing outside, and nurturing plants can help us feel calmer, and refreshed at any age. Connecting with nature can also help to alleviate loneliness.
Keeping a schedule or routine can help you and your kids to do things you care about, and to be productive in meaningful ways. Helping your child or teen to develop a daily schedule or routine can help them to feel better, even if they are resistant at first. Having a consistent wake up time, including hygiene, chores, pleasant exercise and time for fun and pursuing interests. This can also help kids who hyperfocus on their interests, lose track of time and forget to do other important things. If this is your gifted child or teen, they may also need a timer that reminds them of how much time has gone by and helps to transition.
Continue to connect with friends in safe ways, such as talking and playing games on line, and taking social distancing walks.
Create space for everyone in the home to have their own alone time. This will make together time even better. We all need our own place to decompress sometimes.
Many people crave novelty, especially active minds. Having opportunities to explore new ideas, create new things and experiment can alleviate boredom and keep people happy.
Ideas for Engaging Active and Creative Minds in a Fun Way
Encourage your gifted child or teen to find new ways to play with old toys. This is something I’ve always admired about my son. He has difficulty parting with old toys, and every few years reinvents them. For example, this summer, he decided to take an electrical engineering class on Khan Academy and used his old Snap Circuits set to experiment with concepts. Great learning activity, use of creativity and boredom eliminated.
Help your gifted child or teen apply their knowledge to their interests. For example, help your young mathematician put those skills to use in building or engineering a new project, or doing statistics on something they care about. The biologist in your house could collect samples from around the neighborhood and create a field journal. Creative kids can use phones or cameras to make movies and do stop motion animation.
Encourage your gifted child or teen to create their own games, stories and plays. This can be fun for all kinds of gifted kids and teens with varying interests. Tech kids can experiment with making video games. Writers and actors can create their own scripts, and everyone can try their hand at creating a new board game or upcycling an old one.
Check out the classes, clubs and activities the online world has to offer. Many online classes and camps are done really well and can help to engage people's interests at any age. Here are a few to get you started:
General And Fun Classes for All Ages
Outschool -- Offers low cost classes for all types of interests ranging from art to coding to executive functioning skill building.
Khan Academy - Free classes for learners of all ages.
Scratch - Computer programming.
Virtual Summer - Various online summer camps for different ages and interests.
Writing - NanoWriMo for young writers.
DIY - Learn all kinds of skills to make what you want.
Cooking - There are many cooking resources for kids and teens online. This is just one.
Middle and High School
Model UN - Teens can learn about diplomacy and global government through Model UN.
Udemy - Online classes for many interests.
EdEx - To p notch college classes for free.
While this summer may be different, it can still be great. You can help your gifted children and teens to make the most of the down time they have, and you can enjoy them while you have more time together. If this summer is a struggle for you or your kids, reach out for support. Don’t hesitate to connect with a professional in your area who can help you through this tough time.
About the Author: Christy, is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, practicing in San Diego, California. She has over 10 years of experience working with children, teens, parents, families, couples and individual adults with complex psychological and relationship problems. She specializes in the needs of gifted, bright and high achieving people, as well as those who have suffered past trauma. Christy uses an eclectic approach, meeting the needs of whomever she is working with. Her work addresses the needs of the whole person, incorporating mind and body.