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Terri Mauro
BY Terri Mauro
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10 Downsized Summer Goals That Any Parent Can Manage

Maybe the summer snuck up on you. Maybe you’re exhausted from IEP battle or endless nights of hard homework or debilitating worrying about every. single. thing. Whatever the reason, you’re facing the great open canvas of summer vacation with dread, a million articles on Big Things to Do With Your Child This Summer staring you down all over the Internet.

It’s good to have goals. But if all you want to do is lie down in a dark room until back-to-school time, we feel you. So for all those who have had the goal-setting will sucked out of them by a tough school year, we offer the following easily attainable goals that will allow you to feel like you at least did SOMETHING useful with your child during all that idle time. Come on. You can do it!

1. Read one book with your child.

Not one book a week, not one book a month. One book. All summer. Instead of a chapter a day, commit to read a page a day. Reward every page accomplished. And if the one single book your child wants to read all summer is the same one over and over and overandoverandOVER, go right along and call it an official marathon. How many times can we read it? Let’s count!

2. Share your child’s screen time.

Staying on top of your child’s viewing habits is a worthy goal. All the parenting websites say so. Who’s to say you can’t do that by flopping on the couch next to your kid and reading a novel while he watches cartoons? Or playing games on your phone while your teen plays all her favorite YouTube videos? Sometimes you have to let your child’s choice of art flow over you.

3. Observe the way your child plays.

Shirk the responsibility to be Play Boss, constantly forcing your child into play that strengthens speech, motor, education, social, and developmental skills. Let your child be in charge, and see what happens. No matter what your child feels like playing, whether it’s creating a giant traffic jam on the living-room floor or playing Candyland a fafillion times, be an obedient playmate. Maybe you’ll even have fun, but for sure your child will.

4. Take a tour of every playground in town.

Instead of dragging your child to museums and historical sites, make a list of every park with a playground in your community or county, and visit a different one each week. Check it off the list with a flourish. Talk about which ones you liked best and why. It’s the cheapest and easiest grand tour you’ll ever take, plus you can split out quick if it goes bad without feeling like you wasted anything.

5. Play cards with your child.

Who needs flashcards — playing cards have numbers too, you know! And most games involve knowing which number is higher or lower, recognizing like numbers, or adding up numbers to reach a certain total or stay below it. Tell all those boring math exercises to go fish.

6. Find something to praise about your child’s behavior every day.

Focusing on struggles, delays, and room for improvement is school-year stuff. For the summer, try accentuating the positive. Catch your child being good — or even momentarily not being bad — and hand out compliments. Pay more notice when things are going well than when they’re going badly. It’s a feel-good goal.

7. Teach a skill backwards.

Teaching kids life skills in laborious step-by-step fashion is a summer-goal staple. Instead, use this as an opportunity to try backward chaining, by which you tie the shoes or zip the zipper or make the bed right up to the very last step, and let your child triumphantly finish the job. You can then drop back one step at a time, celebrating a successful finish always and skipping the endless coaching and correcting and crying.

8. Collect pennies.

Money skills are important, sure. You could take the summer to set up a budget or teach money management or provide a lesson in delayed gratification. But pennies are money too. And it’s fun to fill up a jar with them. Trading them in for something spendable at the end of the summer will be a good lesson in counting and saving. Plus, your wallet will be lighter in a good way.

9. Indulge your child’s perseveration.

Someone has undoubtedly told you that your child’s obsessive interest is bad. Someone else may have suggested using it as an “in” for getting your child to do unpleasant tasks. For the summer, it’s okay to just sit back and appreciate how meaningful this thing is to the child you love and what a base of knowledge he or she has built up in this one passionately fascinating area. Bask in the expertise.

10. Empty out your child’s backpack before the fall.

For one thing, you’ll avoid an uncomfortable encounter with a forgotten foodstuff come August. Also, the bag’s probably full of schoolwork from the past year that it would be good to take a look at. Another parent might be tempted to use all that as the basis for summer homework, but not you. Instead, look for things to chat with your child about. This is cool! Did you make this? Hey, you did good on this test! Way to go! Wow, someone gave you candy on the last day. Let’s eat it!


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Terri Mauro

Written on July 6, 2017 by:

Terri Mauro is a former blog manager for Friendship Circle and Parenting Special Needs guide for About.com. She is the author of 50 Ways to Support Your Child's Special Education and The Everything Parents Guide to Sensory Processing Disorder. You can read more of her work on her website Mothers With Attitude and listen to her every weekday on the Parenting Roundabout Podcast. Terri has two children with special needs adopted from Russia in 1994.
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