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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Summer Vacation, Children and Adolescents

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 21st 2008

 Do you remember that wonderful song from "Porgy and Bess," "Summer time and the livin is easy, fish are jumpin and the cotton is high, your Poppa's rich and your Momma's good lookin, hush little baby, don't you cry..."

That wonderful show was written about a different time and a different type of life. It was not a better type of life, but it was very different. How is summer time different today?

When America was primarily an agricultural society, summer vacation from school was meant to provide families with the extra hands of children on the farm to help with the entire process of farming. Despite the fact that we are in a post industrial age in which our society has become highly technological, we retain the custom of closing our school for ten weeks between the end of June and beginning of September. This will vary from state to state and from community to community depending on when it is decided that schools close and re open.

This ten week gap in education has presented a dilemma for many families who do not know how to keep their children occupied and out of trouble for that length of time. In addition, it has been a well established fact that many children lose the gains that they made in reading and math during this long interruption in their educational routine.

There are families, especially those with the financial means to do so, who send their children to camps for eight of the ten weeks. In those camps, children either learn to become athletic or strengthen their skills. They also get to swim, escape the boredom and heat of the big cities and enjoy a taste of country life in the mountains where many of these camps are located.

Some families who are unable to afford this are still able to send their children to camp for one or two weeks through the "Y" or some other religious organization.

However, most children come from families who are not able to provide this type of experience for their youngsters. In addition, adolescents are usually not interested in this type of experience. In point of fact, it is the adolescent who presents the greatest challenge to families during the summer vacation.

The challenge presented by teenagers is that, with a lot of unstructured time available to them, their is a lot of opportunity to get into trouble. In a society in which single parent families have become the norm and in which both parents work full time, there is little or no supervision for this age group. Some family members make the terrible mistake of thinking that teens do not need supervision because they are independent.

In a society where drugs are available to and being abused by many young people, it is dangerous to assume that they will be safe during the ten weeks of summer if there are no adults around and nothing for them to do. Yes, some young people are able to get summer jobs and a few have parents who are able to provide employment for them through the family business. However, none of this is available to large numbers of teenagers.

The purpose of this posting is to alert, remind and urge parents of children of all ages to provide structured time during the summer.

Also, in your opinion, is it time that we extended the school year so that our children do not run the risk of losing what they have gained in reading and math skills?

Your comments are welcome.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Mental Help - - Feb 25th 2009

I love mental it helps me a lot!!

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Brandyjack - - May 26th 2008
   Is that getting old, and I am old. I spent the summers in the 50's and 60's in the woods, playing baseball, running with friends, and learning about everything of interest. Including a couple of weeks on my maternal grandparent's dairy farm.
   I shan't  give a title to anyone, who thinks summers were wasted or this is a different time. Year round education is wanted for two reasons. There are those adults, who believe that children should be tended to by "professionals," since these adults are not capable of raising children. A second reason being some imaginary difference in the decades. Which thinking tends to invalid such things as the Declaration of Indepenence and Constitution.

Disagree Completly - Misa - May 24th 2008

Extending the school year would most defiantly be a BAD idea. The summer heat makes kids lose focus and restless, plus the added fact that extending it now wouldn't be good because the remeberance of Summer Break would hurt and cause rebellion and resitance angainst teachers. I know this because our school extended summer break by a week because of snow days. It isn't and wasn't pretty.

As the year goes by it's harder to concentrate too. School grows monotonous and the lessons start to become more and more pointless. Final exams and the start of a new grade would be confusing to place and cause disruption.

I even think the number of drop-outs and skippers would increase. 

 And for the drugs? Those are easily availible in school. Unfortunatly even some teachers get on the bandwagon. No matter whether it's break or in school, if people want drugs they are going to try to find them.

If you sit down and talk with your kids and you have raised them well, trouble over summer shouldn't be a big issue. My friends and I never do anything illegal and know about 9/10 of our class does too.

It's unfair to restrict kids and teens like that. School is hard, because it IS learning new things. It isn't like work, where you have trained for it. It's filling up your brain and stressing you out due to the pressure of GETTING a good job. We need that break.

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