I am facing the summertime blues already. When schools begin to release students for summer break, everything changes for every one involved. I once heard that crime rates increase during the summer months, and a quick Google search indicates that this is still the case. Maybe that’s because lives get turned upside down and everything that finally got situated during the school year has to change completely- only to revert in two and a half months.
During summer break, parents have a new added layer of stress due to children being out of school. Sure, schools aren’t meant to be a daycare. I’m a teacher- believe me when I say I despise being considered a glorified babysitter.
That doesn’t change the fact that when schools are closed it changes the home dynamic. For those with elementary aged kids, it adds a substantial cost. Child care is expensive. Safe, engaging, interactive child care is even more so. It’s no secret that many families are living paycheck to paycheck as it is. The added burden of child care costs for the summer months could very well leave families without enough leftover for basic needs.
For parents of pre-teen to teenage kids, like me, it’s a whole different bag of tricks. Parents have to question whether their child is mature enough to handle being home alone for a whole eight to ten hours. I have to ask myself if my oldest child is old enough to babysit my youngest child. I have to consider planned breakfasts and lunches that are simple to prepare and don’t require unsafe tools.
I have to recognize that without adult intervention, my kids will spend way too much time sleeping, staring at screens, and otherwise being unproductive.
In an area like ours, it’s easy for me to tell my children to stay locked in the house, communicate regularly, complete a job list, etc. In more heavily populated areas, or even in denser apartment complexes or subdivisions, it becomes more of a challenge.Kids will want to meet up with friends. They are going to want to go outside, particularly if they don’t have adequate air conditioning. There are more daylight hours allowing them to get farther from home before it’s time to return. That lack of structure can easily lead to poor decisions.
It goes even deeper than just having freedom from adult intervention though. A well raised child will often make good decisions even when parents aren’t present, so that becomes less of an issue for many families. The problem is not poor decisions for the sake of causing trouble, or even due to lack of parenting.
It’s poor decisions due to necessity. A lot of these crime statistics stem from people not having available food sources, not feeling safe, or simply not having the support necessary to keep them out of dangerous situations.
Sure, cynics might say that these things should be considered before even having children. How often do things go exactly as planned in life? It doesn’t change the fact that the end of May every year is cause for a lot of extra stress.
As a teacher, I spend the majority of my last few weeks of school worrying about the next school year, contemplating rumored changes, and hoping my students stay safe over the summer. Our year is a bit longer than most other schools, and we also offer a summer program. My students also have teams; case managers, therapists, other external supports. While I was busy fretting about my own children and how to ensure they are cared for during my extended school year, I realized that my students would be in a similar position. While I am worrying about whether or not I can pay my oldest enough to make lunch for my youngest every day, my students might be worrying about when they’ll get to eat at all. And that worry persists even with all of the extra supports they have.
I am not at all advocating for year round education. I actually do believe that young minds need to experience a bit of unstructured fun. How many of us have learned about creek life from simply playing by the creek as a kid? How many of us learned about physics when trying to build a ramp for our bike or skates, or build an obstacle course for our remote control cars? Even our kids who play too many computer games are developing hand-eye coordination, problem solving, and maybe even map reading skills among other things.
So what is my call to action here? I suppose I just wanted to complain a bit about my own stress, but in doing so, I have recognized that my own petty considerations are trivial. It would also be pretty great if everyone had a little more understanding.
Understanding for teens who suddenly have no structure after being told to sit down for ten months, understanding for anxious parents who hope they’ve made the right choice or can afford it, maybe just basic understanding that life in general is constantly shifting.
We may not be able to see behind the scenes, but there are a million tiny pressure points going on every day.
This is just today’s pressure point. Be kind.
Bellamy is a 35-year-old mother of three girls. She’s a teacher at a high school, which serves students with mental health and behavioral issues. She also guides walking tours in Over the Rhine. A couple of her favorite hobbies are a “little unusual,” such as ghost hunting and special effects make-up. In her free time, she likes reading, writing, drawing, or hunting thrift and antique stores for odd things.