Don’t let summer just happen

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Most people, from young children to senior citizens, look forward to the opportunities of summer. While they may complain some days about the heat and humidity, the warmer weather and slower pace offers a chance to relax, to take advantage of more outdoor activities and perhaps to even enjoy a well-earned vacation.

But sometimes the temptation is just to sit back and let summer happen. It might sound tempting, but it often means time suddenly flies by, the children are bored and cranky, and the family has missed many of the good things that summer had to offer. The solution is simply to do some pre-summer planning in order to maximize the more-relaxed time that this season allows.

An important starting point is with the children. While their summer plans may revolve around staying up late every night and sleeping until noon the next day, experts said that life goes more smoothly if a family has a set schedule and sticks to it. When mealtimes and bedtimes are on a consistent schedule, children feel more comfortable and usually are more cooperative.

It is also time to make plans with the children for summer activities. If there’s a teenager in the family, it might mean encouraging them to seek that summer job or to enroll in a summer enrichment program. For younger children, it can mean organizing play dates or setting up a regular schedule for playground or pool visits.

Whether there are children in the family or not, it is the time of year to make some clear plans for a summer vacation, if that hasn’t already been discussed. Last-minute vacation planning usually means increased stress, and that’s not the point of a vacation. A real vacation means leaving behind the responsibilities and demands of home and work. This rest is what really reduces stress levels. Recent studies have shown that the majority of people are living overly stressful lives with high levels of stress over prolonged periods of time, which can negatively affect both their mental and physical health.

So plan now for a summer that will bring increased relaxation and revitalization. Whether it’s a long beach vacation, or just a drive to visit relatives in another state, taking the time to enjoy the season can bring many benefits and can keep families from waking up in mid-September wondering how the summer disappeared.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.