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Goals for families during the summer may include reading more, learning about other cultures and spending more time together.

PETER ANDREW BOSCH • Miami Herald,

Family goals for the summer

  • Article by: Helena Oliviero
  • Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • June 10, 2013 - 9:28 AM

After a busy school year filled with early mornings, homework, soccer practices and a list that goes on and on, it’s nice to let loose during the summer. Kick back. Sleep in. Be lazy.

And while summer offers much-needed respite from a busy life, experts say it also can be a time of getting things done.

In fact, many families see summer as a time of opportunity — to learn a new hobby, try a new sport, volunteer, even get a jump start on geometry.

“We are all for that relaxation time,” said Dr. Stephanie Walsh, medical director of child wellness at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and mom to three kids ages 8 to 13. “And when you decide you are not going to be on a schedule and you decide, ‘This week, we are not going to get up early,’ enjoy that break. Don’t just talk about the things you want to do, but do it.”

But then, after that first week or so, Walsh said, kids crave some level of structure. Parents try to take advantage of the lull in schoolwork and extracurricular activities to give their kids other experiences.

“I don’t let my kids become vegetables,” said Cheryl Hampton Bohm, of Sandy Springs, Ga., a mother of two sons. “We try to do enrichment and things we can’t always do when we’ve got soccer games and swim team and homework. We recently got a book called ‘Gross Science Experiments,’ and while our house will probably smell terrible, it’s fun to do these hands-on activities they can’t always get to during the academic school year.”

Walsh said the summertime can be a good time to regroup and set a couple of goals — which could include everything from reviewing math and reading more to working on soccer skills and drinking more water. She suggested that parents select one goal for their children, and let children pick one for themselves, too. She even suggested making a family contract.

Be reasonable

One key to success is not expecting too much too fast. For example, it’s not reasonable to expect a child who eats only one fruit or vegetable to suddenly start eating five every day. Instead, start by increasing the consumption by one and gradually build up to five by the time school starts again.

Writing the goals down and placing them somewhere everyone can see, such as a bulletin board, can help families stay on track. Families also can sign family contracts.

And goals, Walsh said, aren’t just for kids. She suggested that parents also think about setting goals of their own for this time of year.

Bohm aims to ensure that her sons, 10-year-old Garrett and 8-year-old Griffin, get an hour of exercise every day, and read at least 30 minutes every day. Both are enrolled in summer reading programs at their local library. And she said while she expects her children to read and get physical activity every day, the summertime offers them a time to be creative — in the ways they move and use their brains.

Bohm, a stay-at-home mom, will begin the summer with her sons with writing a list of places to go this summer. They will make several trips to the library to take advantage of free activities — everything from seeing a symphony performance to visiting zoo animals.

And remember, Walsh said, summer does mean taking it easy, so getting off track or not quite meeting a summertime goal is not the end of the world. The key, she said, is making the time off from school really count.

“Don’t try to change the world between the end of May and August,” Walsh said, “but it is an amazing opportunity. The more realistic you are, the more successful you will be.”

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