The past two years have presented schoolchildren with a multitude of challenges, so it’s more important than ever to help children avoid the “summer slide” — while enjoying this downtime — said Michelle Storie, faculty member for Counseling and Mental Health Services SUNY Oswego.
“It’s important to strike a balance between taking a mental break from school and encouraging learning opportunities in less formal settings and at home,” said Storie, who is also a board-licensed psychologist and board-certified school psychologist and coordinates SUNY Oswego’s school psychology program.
“The “summer slide” is real and typically consists of a regression in academic ability that can span several months,” Storie said. “A study published in the American Education Research Journal in 2020 found that students lost an average of 39 percent of progress made throughout the school year.”
And that was before the pandemic, which has led to stress and psychological challenges.
“Americans show greater levels of depression and anxiety, according to a recent article published by the American Psychological Association in November 2021,” Storie said. “While it has been reported that rates of anxiety and depression were four times higher in adults in 2021 than in 2019, these symptoms are also occurring in children.”
Storie has noted how the shift to virtual and/or hybrid learning had a particular impact on children, including noting “an increase in referrals for concerns related to ADHD, particularly among students struggling with the shift to virtual learning.” story.
“When school was hybrid or virtual, many parents reported that their children had difficulty maintaining attention to class and ignoring domestic or electronic distractions,” Storie said. “While schools resumed with normal schedules last fall, many students are still showing learning gaps that began during the pandemic. Some students also showed difficulties with organization, but teachers accepted late work during the pandemic and promoted students to the next grade regardless of the amount of work completed or demonstrated mastery of skills.”
Younger students, particularly first and second graders, had their first full year of school, but “missed out on socialization opportunities and formative years to build scholastic expectations and behaviors,” Storie noted. “As a result, we are seeing higher levels of behavioral problems in schools, with students needing more socio-emotional support. I believe we will see the impact of the pandemic both academically and socially-emotionally in the years to come.”
So while it’s certainly important for students to have that break, providing opportunities to keep them motivated remains crucial.
“One thing that’s important for children and young people is building structure,” Storie said. “While students don’t necessarily have to get up at 6:30 a.m. every morning, having a regular bedtime and wake-up time can be important to minimize disruption to sleep. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, lack of sleep can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression.”
Storie encourages children to have “screen breaks,” or times when they are not using a smartphone, tablet, gaming device, television, or other electronic activity. Families should take advantage of the weather and summer opportunities.
“When possible, encourage students to spend time outdoors because it can also reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms, according to the Life Works Center,” Storie said. “In addition, engaging students in physical activities such as running, skipping, jogging, or exercising helps release endorphins and has both mental and physical benefits.”
Storie added that there are many ways to incorporate learning organically into summer vacation activities that also help kids get more out of their experiences.
“For example, if you’re going on a family vacation, read with your child or teen about the places you’re going to visit and maybe the history of the area,” Storie suggested. “Involve your children in choosing the places you want to visit and maybe make a list of pros and cons for each place. Collaborate, make recipes, or do crafts, which involve reading, arithmetic, and listening, and are fun ways to integrate academic skills in non-academic contexts.”
Fun activities that include learning help children and teens retain the skills they learned during the school year while minimizing regression.
“Many libraries offer summer reading programs with incentives based on the number of books read,” Storie said. “In addition, libraries often offer free summer activities featuring speakers, readings, crafts and more that will further encourage learning and good study habits.”
Story recommended a few additional resources, including:
- To maintain math development, free online resources that contain game elements such as: B. iXL, Sumdog, Khan Academy and Xtra Math; Some parts of these programs are free while others may require payment
- Encourage students to maintain writing practice by keeping a journal of their summer activities
- Using a free resource like TypeRacer that lets kids and teens practice writing skills in a fun format
“For varying fees, there are summer learning programs at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, the Museum of Science and Technology, and the Oswego Children’s Museum that will help encourage learning and foster skills in fun environments outside the school walls,” Storie said.
In addition, local colleges and schools offer a variety of educational and social programs—in the case of SUNY Oswego, this includes the Sheldon Institute Enrichment Program, Exploring Nature at Rice Creek Field Station, and a hands-on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering) program. , Arts and Mathematics) Camp.
Storie also suggested finding ways to ease the transition back to school so students feel more comfortable resuming these routines.
“To ease anxiety about transitioning to the next school year, especially for anyone entering a new school, it is recommended that parents arrange summer visits with the new school,” Storie said. “Many school staff, including principals, school psychologists and school counselors, work beyond the school year and are available if contacted in advance.”
Especially for students transferring to a new school or environment, working with the school to arrange a special tour or meet a future teacher helps to reduce anxiety and build a relationship.
“Students also have an opportunity to learn about the school’s floor plan and/or potentially get early access to their locker if they move to a new building,” Storie said. “This can be especially beneficial for students who are anxious about starting a new school or are struggling to transition from the summer back-to-school mode.”
Michelle Storie, faculty member for counseling and mental health services, said it’s important to keep students engaged and learning throughout the summer while still having fun.