Improving care. Changing lives.

President's Blog ~ May 2017

Dr. Robert P Franks

As we enjoy the warmer weather and spring sunshine, the cycles of the season also bring the end of the school year and anticipation of summer. The end of the school year can sometimes be a stressful time as children and adolescents try to finish end-of-year projects, study for final exams, and anticipate year-end report cards. Many children are also juggling sports and other recreational activities. Parents are busy trying to help their children through these challenging weeks and months while planning ahead for summer activities and childcare. It can be a chaotic and stressful time for families.

As a parent myself, I sometimes wonder, “How much is too much?” Many parents pile on the expectations and activities for their children in hopes of providing them with an enriching and productive childhood. At the same time, many of us lament the days of lazy summers in our own childhoods that were unstructured and often unsupervised (and fun!). However, for most families—especially those with single parents or two working parents, there is the need to constantly juggle the wants and desires of our kids with the practical realities of our day-to-day lives. And we need to ensure that our children are both busy and properly supervised once school is out.

I often recommend to parents to take their cues from their children. It is sometimes important to pause and step back and ask, “Are my children happy?” Do our kids have time to “be kids” and enjoy some unstructured time to be creative and develop their interests and personalities? It is worth thinking about. Most parents and caregivers know their children better than anyone else. We know when our child is struggling or overwhelmed. Sometimes we need to jump off the hamster wheel and take stock. Check in with your kids. Imagine walking in their shoes. Are we expecting too much?

Of course, we must also consider the opposing point of view. Many kids need and thrive on structure. Many kids need to be engaged in supervised activities. And left to their own devices, many kids will spend endless summer days staring at screens and playing video games. We need to find a balance.

For families with children who have emotional, behavioral or developmental challenges, there is an added layer of complexity and challenge. Kids with these struggles sometimes don’t do well with transitions and change. They oftentimes cannot participate in some of the same activities as their peers. And they may need an added level of supervision and guidance. Parents and caregivers of children with special needs sometimes find it difficult to find the appropriate activities and settings for their children in the summer months. Fortunately, for families in the greater Boston area (and in many areas across the country) there are an increasing number of options.

Judge Baker’s Summer Enrichment Institute (SEI) is one such option. For kids who need extra therapeutic support because of behavioral challenges or ADHD, Judge Baker offers a six-week summer “camp-like” experience for children that also provides the needed services and supports to help them be successful. If you would like to learn more about SEI, please click here. There is a short video and a “Contact Us” link where you can get more information or ask to talk to one of counselors.

As this summer approaches, the staff at Judge Baker and I wish you and your family a healthy and happy season! If you are struggling and need help, please don’t hesitate to contact us. One of our caring staff would be happy to speak with you. For more information, please call: (617) 278-4288, or email cect@jbcc.harvard.edu.