Families played several new and adjusted roles in the lives and learning of their children over the past few months, often in ways that they did not anticipate and for which they were not prepared. Now, with a shift to summer they face another set of challenges and will need important support.
This summer will not be like most summers. The coronavirus is still active and threatens to re-exert itself. Social distancing practices remain important. Many traditional activities available for children and young people have been cancelled. The organization and format of school in the fall are still evolving. Meanwhile, many parents are still working from home, laid off, facing employment uncertainty, and facing financial stress.
These factors and others mean that families need our support to help them plan and navigate the summer in ways that protect the health and learning of their children. Here are six practical actions you and your staff can take to support parents and families to make the most of this summer:
- Compile and share a list of safe, community-based activities and resources families can tap to keep children active and engaged. Some of the activities might be home-based. Others might involve getting out, without placing children’s health at risk. Consider including ideas for how neighborhoods can organize safe, fun activities such as window scavenger hunts or drive-by parades. Just because organized, programmed camps and seminars of the past are not offered does not mean young people cannot be active and engaged.
- Compile and share community resources that families might need to sustain themselves over the summer. Sources of financial assistance, mental health support, housing, utilities, clothing, food, and free internet access represent good places to start.
- Provide weekly ideas and activities families can use to manage, reduce, and relieve stress. Mindfulness activities, conflict resolution strategies, and safe ways to deal with frustration and anger are good examples on which you and your staff can build.
- Develop and offer online mini seminars for families to learn tools and techniques to assist in learning that occurs at home. This spring, parents were often thrust into the use of tools and activities with which they had little to no background. Considering that at least some portion of fall education activities will include at-home learning, now is a good time to offer families flexible, convenient opportunities to learn and practice with the technology tools they are likely to use.
- Provide families with fun, engaging activities and supports to help their children continue to learn. Some students will have fallen behind over the past few months. Others will still need some support to retain their learning. Still others may have found that they thrived when they were allowed to learn with greater independence and want to continue the experience in the summer.
- Provide families with a place they can go to stay informed about plans and updates regarding school in the fall. A website, online newsletter, or social media postings are potential options. Consider where families typically go to stay informed and use this space to provide up-to-date information and invite visitors to post questions.