If you're like most parents, the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have been a huge disruption in your family. Trying to work from home, help teach the kids, and keep everyone in your family healthy and sane is a ton of work. As your local family law attorney, Family Matters Law Group applauds all the families adjusting to life with COVID-19.
However, summer break is here and already parents are asking questions about how COVID-19 will affect their summer plans. Will there be summer camps? Can we take our annual family vacation? What in the world are the kids supposed to do with no school? Are they going to be ready for the next grade when school starts back up?
Let's explore some ideas for what parents can do to handle summer break, the kids, and COVID-19.
Summer Camps and Enrichment Activities
One of the important calls you need to make, especially if you have already paid for a spot at your child's favorite summer camp, is to the camp itself. Many camps are making contingency plans to have some kind of camp go on depending on local health department approval.
You can have peace of mind and information to share with the kids by calling the camp and asking some basic questions:
You should also talk to your family pediatrician and ask them questions about summer activities for the children. At the end of the day, it will still be up to you to decide (based on local health guidelines and recommendations) what you allow your children to participate in over the summer.
Many groups and organizations are still planning on running day camps, but are switching to an online camp. This can be a great option for parents who are concerned about keeping the kids safe while also providing structure and enrichment over the summer.
Most experts agree: this summer is probably not the time to think about your family trip to Disney World or that big family reunion. As states cautiously lift stay-at-home orders, you may be tempted to load up the car and hit the road.
Again, you need to do some homework before making those plans. Talk to people at your local health department and check the CDC's COVID-19 travel website here. Also, ask your family doctor and your pediatrician for their advice on how to travel safely over the summer if local policies allow for it.
While you may be thinking that it's easier to social distance while on the open road, you still need to be careful. The last thing you want on a vacation is to let COVID-19 tag along. Use common sense when planning -- avoid large crowds, plan ahead to minimize trips to stores and gas stations, and sanitize, sanitize, sanitize -- and make sure to think about your destination and what you will do when you get there.
It is important to allow your children to be social with others. Make sure they have an outlet to connect with friends online in a safe way. As children begin to navigate the Internet for more social purposes over the summer, it will be key for parents to monitor their usage and provide an online safe space for them to interact with their peers.
Here is another situation where you will have to do your homework. Checking local health guidelines and talking to your family pediatrician will help give you an idea of whether or not the kids can play in small groups, whether they can visit indoors, and how much leeway to give to the teenagers in your house who are chomping at the bit to get away from the parental units for awhile.
Educators will tell you that many children exhibit a "summer slide", where they lose some of the educational progress they made during the previous school year. This is especially important this summer, as teachers report that some students have had attendance issues while online schooling has become the norm. Many parents are also concerned about whether the students got an adequate amount of teaching with all the COVID-19 disruptions.
This summer, it will be vital that parents make sure that their child keeps up some academic activity to prepare for school in the fall. Encourage your child to read. Literacy is a key skill that is a major predictor of success academically. Even though libraries are closed, you can still encourage your child to read daily.
It's not important what they read -- it's important that they read. Whether it's a book, a newspaper, their favorite magazine, or even a graphic novel (otherwise known to most adults as a comic book), encourage your children to regularly read over the summer.
It's OK to set some limits on video games and TV. While it's easy to rely on the electronic babysitter, especially with stay-at-home orders, the kids can still go outside and play. The kids can still read and find things to do just as they would during a regular summer vacation.
There are also plenty of online enrichment opportunities for children to stay engaged in learning over the summer. Perhaps you can sign them up for an online day experience or program. Perhaps you can do an online activity with your child. Even something as simple as playing a game that reviews things they learned this school year can be helpful.
School won't be in session, but that doesn't mean your child gets a break from learning.
Kids worry about COVID-19 just like many parents do. Be open and honest about things that are going on during the summer. Listen to them when they express concerns over changes to their usual summer routine.
It goes without saying that being inside with anyone for long periods of time can make you seriously think about how much you like them. Even the best of parents get stressed. As always, try to keep arguments away from the kids. They will pick up on the negative atmosphere and it can increase stress for them.
Remember that your approved visitation and/or custody arrangement has been vetted by the court. It's important that you stick to that. If you need to make changes due to COVID-19 or local stay-at-home orders, you need to contact your divorce lawyer and have them advise you on steps to take to get changes approved by the court.
With some careful planning, doctor's advice, and common sense, you can still make this a memorable summer for the children. With any luck, we will see life return to some normalcy as the summer progresses. But even if we don't, it doesn't have to be miserable for you and the children. If you still need some ideas for this year’s summer vacation itinerary, ready our Divorced Parent’s Guide to Summer Vacation Planning.
Family Matters Law Group is open for business and is answering concerns and questions via email and phone. If you are having issues with your case due to summer vacation, don't hesitate to let us know. We can help steer you in the right direction and help you make this a summer to remember. 678-545-2118