Young people are likely headed into the summer feeling weary, exhausted, and stressed from the pandemic combined with tragic new incidences of persistent and pernicious racism. They may also feel disconnected and uneasy from the absence of structure that school, summer programs, and camps typically provide. More than ever before, young people need social-emotional supports to help them cope and thrive. But where do we start? Like many parents, I’ve been considering how best to support my own teenage sons. My gut and the research have both pointed me in the same direction: focus on relationships and routines.
Years of research confirms that children who have caring adults in their lives—parents, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, coaches, relatives—have better life outcomes and less incidences of risk-taking. Relationships are sometimes referred to as the “active ingredient” in positive youth development and must be strong and trusting to facilitate healthy development and learning. Trust is built and earned, and one way to lay the groundwork for trust and emotional safety is to develop and stick to routines. Predictable routines help to reduce stress and facilitate learning. This is especially important during times of upheaval, uncertainty, and grieving.
We know it isn’t easy to support yourselves and your families through this time. But we also know that spending just a few weeks focusing on relationships, routines, and social emotional skills can make a big difference. In our recent Research Brief, kids told us in their own words how they benefit when they have opportunities to collaborate and learn new things. More resources are becoming available to help families engage in fun and learning with their children. Here is a list of family resources I’m keeping on hand this summer.
Let’s work together to create experiences that keep kids safe, healthy, and learning.