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May 24, 2022

Ask Lisa Podcast - Episode 82

How Should Kids Spend Summer 2022?

Episode 82

Dr. Lisa runs down the five things she believes parents should focus on in summer 2022. The pandemic narrowed kids’ opportunities for growth, but there’s now a lot adults can do to help children and teenagers catch up. Dr. Lisa and Reena discuss advice that might seem counterintuitive – such as the importance of encouraging kids to take some risks.

May 24, 2022 | 28 min

Transcript | How Should Kids Spend Summer 2022?

Ask Lisa Podcast, Ep. 82: How Should Kids Spend Summer 2022?


The Ask Lisa Podcast does not constitute medical advice and is not a substitute for professional

mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have concerns about your child’s well-being,

consult a physician or mental health professional.


REENA: I feel like I can almost taste summer and I’m realizing I have nothing planned for my children this summer. Nothing. No camps. Nothing


LISA: Are you serious?


REENA: Yeah.


LISA: What are you going to do? What are you going to do with your children?


REENA: I have realized these camps fill up very quickly and actually and I’ve just realized I’ve been trying to stay with my head above the water. I’ve got to come up with my plan but I’m kind of like, well what do I do? Things are kind of open now, right? We’re not locked down. But I just feel confused. A little confused.


LISA: Yeah, no, well, first off, I’ll tell you, Reena it gets a lot easier as your kids get older, like my 18-year-old, like she sets her summer. It’s kind of an amazing thing as a parent to just say, so, what are you doing this summer? And she’ll just run down where she’ll be working and what she’s up to. It’s awesome. So that’s coming. I just want you to know.


REENA: What age does that start at?


LISA: Um, I’d say last summer, you know, bluntly a lot of last summer was doing stuff related to the college process, getting herself ready, you know, studying and projects that were connected to that. So, it’s also amazing that just because they’ve become so much more autonomous, you know getting themselves places and having opinions about their time. It’s a lot more about when are you coming home, as opposed to how do I fill your days.


REENA: Well, we are wrapping up our Season 2 today with a great episode on what we should be focusing on and what kids should do this summer. So I’m taking notes. I’m seriously taking notes on what to do.


LISA: Okay, I have strong opinions on this, Reena. There’s five things I want parents to focus on with their kids this summer. Are you ready for them?


REENA: Ready.


LISA: Number one, sleep. I feel like we should call this podcast, Ask Lisa, where Dr. Damour talks about the importance of sleep, that should be the whole podcast title. So, let’s just start with the basics one more time. High school students need nine hours of sleep a night, middle school students need 10 hours of sleep a night, and elementary and younger need 11 or more hours of sleep a night. And I have to say, for all of the kind of challenging emotional stuff I am hearing from families and kids about the last couple of years and how, bluntly, tired everyone is, I would love for all of us to really use whatever quiet we find in the summer to see how it feels if we sleep as much as our bodies require.


REENA: I find that hard because I feel like in the summer, everything goes out the window.


LISA: Yes.


REENA: And especially in my case where you don’t have any structured plans.


LISA: And it’s light really late at night.


REENA: Yes. That’s right.


LISA: So, Reena, you may be able to get some, given that you don’t have a whole lot structure, you’re sleep shot is pretty decent here, because even though we do often let kids stay up later in the summer, if your kids don’t have to be somewhere first thing, they may be able to sleep in. And so, really, I would look at, you know, what’s the summer bedtime going to be, are your kids able to sleep in, so they’re able to get the required number of hours, and I would really take advantage of the fact that it’s unstructured to give them the feeling of what it really feels like to get an adequate amount of sleep, because we want them to know this, we should know this ourselves, and it’s hard to make happen in the school year, but summer gives us a chance at this. And so I think we should try for it and work with whatever scheduling we’re doing to make it possible.


REENA: So, sleep is so important, yeah. It’s just everything unravels without proper sleep. But it’s sometimes hard to get your kids into bed and get them up.


LISA: It is, and so what I would wonder about for your kids is if they’re not able to sleep in, and some kids are young enough where they just pop right up, to really do the math with them, of, you know it’s summer, there’s not as many demands on your time, you need 10 hours of sleep a night, you seem to wake up no matter what by seven, so if we look at that that means you need to be actually falling asleep by nine, and make it a nonnegotiable, for as much of the summer as you can. And if your kids are getting good sleep but their clock gets all wonky, they’re like, yeah we’re sleeping from 10 to 8, which is wonderful in the summer, start shifting that clock back before the school year begins. Give yourself August or maybe the second half of August to get them more on wakeup time for school. But let them sleep this summer. Just let them sleep.


REENA: That’s good. What’s your second advice?


LISA: So, my second one has to do with the narrowing of kids’ lives in the pandemic. I think about how so much of growth in young people is contingent on exposure to new things and trying new things and learning new things and doing new things, even if you’re not good at them. And when I think about the last two years, for me, one of the great tragedies is that kids’ lives, they just got so narrowed. They just couldn’t do things like they used to do things. So, with all their free time that your children may have, I would tell them they have to learn new skills. That would be number two, learn new skills this summer. So, they can get on YouTube and maybe figure out how to juggle. They could learn how to start cooking. I know families, and I love this, who actually put kids in charge of one or two meals a week for family dinner.


REENA: That’s a great idea.


LISA: I know, right? And it’s one of those things where it sounds great and then as a parent, you’re like, but it’s more work for me in the end. It’s like, I don’t want to do it because it’s more work for me. But so, let’s take advantage of the summer to tolerate that it’s more work for us, that maybe we have more time to put up with the more work for us. And really say to kids, I need you to go find a recipe, I need you to give me the grocery list. I will get you what you need, I need you to make dinner for us a couple nights a week. So, something like that. Or if a kid wants to learn to knit or if they want to learn how to do pottery or if they want to learn how to fix a sink. The beautiful thing about YouTube is that any skill a person wants to learn at this point, they can do. But I really think we should ask our kids to pick up a new skill this summer.


REENA: I never thought of that. That’s such a great idea. And you know what? I might join them actually, because my family is so into sailing. I don’t really like sailing. And so, you just got me thinking. I might offer, I’ll learn to do this and so I’ll join your little club if you pick one too.


LISA: Good for you.


REENA: Okay that’s good. And so, what age do you think kids can really start to help with cooking? You know, if they’re three obviously they can’t, but you can still sort of say, that’s your cooking day and the adults help.


LISA: Yeah, I think that, and then it’s all the parts of cooking, like picking out a recipe, you know, what do you like, what do you want? And there’s really some wonderful cookbooks for kids, so maybe getting one of those and saying, pick a few things out of here and we’ll make it happen. But I also want it to be the kind of thing where it’s not necessarily something that is a huge demand on the parent. It may be that you get a pogo stick, and you’re like, you’re going to learn how to pogo stick, with your helmet and your pads on. But just get good at something that you weren’t good at before, or at least try. And it could even be, you know, we can get you a hand-me-down instrument and maybe you’re going to spend this summer trying to figure out how to play this thing and watch YouTube videos until you do. But something that just broadens their engagement with the parts of themselves that have had to be quiet in this pandemic, the part that is curious and expanding and exploring the world, we want that part to really live it up this summer.


REENA: That’s great.


LISA: So, that’s my second one. Okay, my third one is closely related, which is take safe risks.


REENA: What? What do you mean by that?


LISA: Yeah, I know. I want our kids to be a little riskier this summer, of course safely, but here’s one aspect of the pandemic that makes me worried. When I think about what could some concerning psychological ramifications be? I worry that our kids are going to be overcautious.


REENA: And that’s not a good thing?


LISA: Yeah.


REENA: Being overcautious? I mean I’d rather them be overcautious when they cross the street, or their friends ask them to do pot. Isn’t that a good skill to have, to be overcautious?


LISA: Yes. We want them to be overcautious around things where they could really get hurt. 100 percent. I don’t get concerned easily, but I am concerned that being so close to home, having a scary virus around us, has made kids a bit risk averse of the everyday risks that kids should be able to take, and that parents should be able to tolerate, which is also that we’ve got to tolerate it too. And kids are, especially by adolescence, they do like novelty and they do like excitement and they’re built to seek it and we actually want to encourage that a bit. So, the kinds of safe risks I would love to see kids taking are things like maybe trying skateboarding or maybe going camping or maybe getting into safe water sports or, you know, things that feel a little bit scary in their way. Not dangerous, but a little bit scary, and to lean back into that part of themselves that is not altogether comfortable and getting used to the idea of doing things that are not altogether comfortable and pushing back into that. And there’s a few books, if parents are like, what is this? How do I get my kid to take safe risks? There’s some books that are kind of fun. There’s a book called “Fifty Risks To Take With Your Kids” by Daisy Turnbull, and we’ll put it in the show notes, and then there’s a pair of companion books, and I’ll tell you the titles and you’ll see immediately why I don’t love the titles, but the books are fine. So there’s the “Daring Book For Girls” and the “Dangerous Book For Boys.”


REENA: Geez.


LISA: You see the problem right away, right?


REENA: Totally.


LISA: So if we can get past that, there are some really neat things. It’s like, learn how to build a campfire, learn how to do all of these things, learn how to climb a tree, things like that, and I what would say is, these same books also probably have some cool skills your kid could learn. So, you could double up on point number two and point number three, like learn a new skill, take a risk, do a risky thing safely. But I would say, you know, or look up online some things to do that just we’ve never done before and that feel a little, little bit dicey, those are the kinds of things that kids should be doing this summer.


REENA: Wow, I never thought about having them take safe risks, that that would be important or of any value really.


LISA: It’s about helping kids expand themselves again. I can’t describe it more concretely than that, but I think when I look at the children around me, I’m like, it all got so pared down in terms of what they could do and I think most kids will be okay and recover onto a normal developmental trajectory but they’re going to need to be nudged to do more and to do things that are not altogether comfortable.


REENA: That’s interesting. We’re going to take a quick break and be right back.


REENA: So, what’s number four on your list?


LISA: So, number four on my list is meet new people.


REENA: How do you do that?


LISA: That’s a good question. If your kids are going to camp, that’s easy. They’re going to meet new campers and they’re also going to meet new camp counselors. And for me, I didn’t say meet new kids. I want them to meet new people. So they can be kids and also adults.




LISA: And in my ideal version of number four, they meet new kids and new adults. And back to that idea of kids expanding, of kids building out who they are. A huge amount of that happens by engaging with people they did not know before and getting to know people they did not know before, and certainly this is true of peers, but also adults, right? Did you have jobs when you were a young teenager?.


REENA: Not until I was probably about 16 did I take on a job really.


LISA: Yeah so I always had jobs. My grandmother was a caterer and so I used to actually go spend a lot of the summer working in her kitchen, which was not actually the most fun way to spend my summers but it was what I did. So I, starting at like 12, 13, 14, spent a big chunk of each day cutting carrot sticks with the other people who worked in her kitchen, which were largely college-age and adult women, and so just in those conversations with them, and hearing about their lives and their worlds, so I always worked. And then I had a job job starting at 15. I was a hostess at a restaurant and had a boss, had the waiters and waitstaff who were my colleagues, and it’s not like I stayed in touch with any of those people, but exposure to a variety of people, and so whether it’s through work that kids can do, and that makes sense for them to do, or whether it’s through camps they can go to, programs they can do, or whether it’s through your religious organization and maybe what they offer this summer, in terms of programming for kids that puts the in contact with really thoughtful adults. As parents are weighing how a child’s time gets divided up, if there’s an option where they don’t meet anybody new and there’s an option where they do meet a whole bunch of new people, I would encourage new people in their lives.


REENA: That’s great. That’s really great. And what about number five?


LISA: Okay, for number five, what I would want is for our children to find a way to be of service, to make themselves useful to the world beyond themselves this summer. And I would be really serious about this and put it as a very high priority that may need support from within the family this summer. But it may be volunteering, again maybe through a religious institution, or doing yard work for a neighbor who can’t do their own yard work, or raising money for a cause they care about, or finding some way to contribute beyond themselves to the world.


REENA: How do you do that if your kids are younger?


LISA: Yeah, that’s a really good one. One thing I wonder about, so younger, you’re probably thinking eight and younger.


REENA: Yeah exactly.


LISA: That’s hard. So, one might be around fundraising, the idea of like, let’s raise money for something, and so then there are things like lemonade stands and baking things, and these things always crack me up because invariably the parents fund it, but as things get more sophisticated in your child’s thinking they may be able to budget some money for supplies and then come up with a profit and figure out where to do that. So, that can be a nice thing, and it might let you combine some of these things. So, you develop your skill as a baker, so that’s a skill you’re building over the summer, and you’re going to turn that skill into a fundraising effort for something you care about. So you can combine two and five here. So, it may be through that, and it also may be through things like making cards for people. You know like little kids love making cards, and they make great cards. I have the cards my kids made me all over my office and they make me so happy because they’re so, in many ways funny, often, and really tender, so I wonder about doing things like making cards for people overseas or making cards for people in hospitals or those kinds of contributions that really matter and yet, kids can do, and as kids get older we really want to see them understanding that they can contribute and should contribute, to the world beyond themselves.


REENA: That’s so important, isn’t it. I’ve learned that a lot from you about giving back, even in tough times, can really help people feel better about themselves.


LISA: Well and that’s the point, Reena, that’s exactly the point, which is so much of what we’re struggling with is that we feel lousy. This has been a really long, hard time, and when we feel bad, it’s so often our instinct to turn our gaze inward and think about, you know, what would help me feel better, would it be getting a massage? Would it be eating this wonderful ice cream? The whole wellness universe. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but where it stops short, and this is actually thinking I heard about from a religious leader in my community, and I think it’s so true, where it stops short is wellness and all of that is about the self, and it comes to its limits in terms of, if we’re feeling bad because the world’s not as it should be, part of how we need to address that is to then think about things beyond ourselves and then in this wild, magical twist, that actually does help us feel better. Even if we do it for a completely altruistic reason, the upshot is that we, ourselves, feel better. So, if we’re looking for wellness, one of the ways I would encourage people to think about it for themselves and their kids is it’s not always by attending to our own needs that we promote personal wellness.


REENA: How do you get it to stick? This is something I learned later in adulthood, how important charity is, particularly in the pandemic, at making you feel better in tough times. How do we get that to resonate with our children?


LISA: Some of what we see when we look at the research is that if it’s driven by the family or it’s done as part of a family activity where there’s real thought given to making financial donations as a family or where kids have say about where families donate or they think together about it. Ron Lieber, who writes so beautifully about kids and money, talks about when kids start to have incomes or are earning money, to really get them in the habit of saving some and spending some and donating some and that there’s always some set aside for donation. So, I think a lot if we want to set that idea of part of how we pay rent for our space in this world is that we are taking care of others, to routinize into aspects of family life. You know, every December we sit down as a family and we think about where we want to donate. I know a family who collects all their change all year and they spend time thinking about where that money’s going to go and everybody has input on it, and I think that’s really part of how we do it, and the piece of this, Reena, that I just feel in some ways pulls all of this together in the ways we want to pull it together, is we want our kids to feel good, or to feel good again. It’s been such a long time since we’ve been able to really rest in a sense of feeling some comfort and some ease and it never lasts long, and we can’t hope for it to, it’ll come and go, but part of how you feel good is you do things you feel good about. And service is your silver bullet for that. Like you can’t mess up service. You can mess up a game, you can mess up a test, you can say something to a friend you wish you hadn’t said, but if you are giving of yourself on behalf of others you can’t get it wrong. We want kids to go back to the school year feeling full and restored and as whole as they can be and if they are getting good sleep, and if they are learning to do new things, and if they are pushing themselves out into the world to take on risks that they haven’t necessarily had a chance to do, and if they are broadening their horizons socially and meeting new people and discovering new parts of themselves in their interactions with those people, and then they are giving of themselves to the world beyond, they will fill up this summer and that’s what we need to help them do.


REENA: That’s really great. That’s really great. So, when you stand back at this point of time that we’re at. I mean it’s been such a long couple of years, and the unexpected, the uncertainty really of it all has been exhausting. What do you really think is important? I mean you’ve given us five great things to look at, but overall, Lisa, this summer, what do you think is something that you think all families should consider keeping in mind as we approach the summer?


LISA: I think what summer makes possible is being together in the moment. And it’s so corny to say that, Reena, but I really mean it. The way in which things slow down, or I picture you out sailing with your family, and as much as you may not love sailing, you may have to get used to sailing. I just hope there’s times when you’re out there where you’re like, here we all are, just together, out here on the water with no agenda beyond eventually getting home. And I think that, for me, is what summer means. There’s these windows where the agenda falls away and we’re just together and enjoying each other’s company in that moment, and that’s what I would really want families to try to make available to themselves is not be so overscheduled or so busy or constrained that that gets crowded out, that there’s quiet, agendaless time together as families, that we just enjoy for its own sake.


REENA: Everything is usually always so structured for us in the summers, but that’s really good to hear that there’s value in letting go of the agenda and just being together.


LISA: Yeah, I think your unstructured summer, Reena, might be annoying at points, and then also create real possibilities for hanging out, eating ice cream really slowly, and eventually getting everybody to bed.


REENA: I love that. I absolutely love that. Well I’ll report back or check in on social media when my hair is falling apart because I have no plan and the kids are on top of me. But this has really been things that I didn’t expect you to say, which is typical of our podcast when I go into these conversations with you, but so valuable, so valuable. I love this. Just to recap, you’re talking about the importance of sleep, learning new skills, learning to take safe risks, meeting new people, and being of service. I love that. I love these takeaways. But before we go, what do you have for us for parenting to go?


LISA: So, we’ve got our agendas for kids. Our five items, and I think for parenting to go, what I love is for parents and guardians to think about what would make this a successful summer for them. What would feel good to have done before summer’s end? Because we want our kids to fill up and feel whole on our way back into the school year, and part of how we can be there for them, in the ways that we want to, is if we fill ourselves up too. So, you’ve got you list if five things for kids, but what I would say for parents or anyone taking care of kids is thinking of two or three things that you would love to make happen this summer, and that would nourish you so as we head back into fall 2022, we have the energy and the sustenance we need to get our kids into another school year.


REENA: That’s really good. I never thought about figuring out things for myself that can help us hit the reset button and recharge. That’s great.


LISA: Absolutely.


REENA: I can’t believe this is the last episode of Season 2, we covered so many topics this season.


LISA: I know it was a good season and I’m really excited for Season 3. We’ve got good stuff planned.


REENA: We do. We’re really excited about it, but we want you to know, we’re going to be reaching out through social media, our Ask Lisa Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. Be sure to check them out throughout the summer because there might be live ways to connect with us and keep the conversation going.


LISA: Wonderful


REENA: So, we’ll see you back for Season 3, maybe sooner on social media, but thank you so much, Lisa, for your advice. It’s the best.


LISA: Oh, Reena, it’s my favorite. I love doing this with you and I’m so grateful for all of our listeners.


REENA: We absolutely are. Thanks so much. Have a great summer everyone.


LISA: Have a great summer.


The advice provided by Dr. Damour here will not and does not constitute - or serve as a substitute for - professional psychological treatment, therapy, or other types of professional advice or intervention. If you have concerns about your child’s well-being, consult a physician or mental health professional.

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