Summer has arrived. After a long spring filled with anxiety, stress and challenges brought on by the historic pandemic, many people are looking for ways to enjoy summer — safely. Here are some tips for families about summer fun, safety, and things children can do to get a jump-start on education before the new school year begins.
As the state begins to ease restrictions, it might be time to think about hitting the roads to explore our Commonwealth — or our surrounding states. Here are some important things to consider before you pack up the car and head out:
- Plan ahead. Before you drive off, know your specific plan: Where will you go, how will you get there, where will you stay, what will you do when you arrive, are you comfortable using public restrooms, do you have ample disinfecting wipes and masks, where will you eat?
- Be thorough. Call ahead to any place you plan to go. Ask a manager how they are ensuring people’s safety. Ask about refund policies, if they are reducing the number of people to help prevent the spread of the virus, what cleaning protocols are in place, and if there is a quarantine requirement in the area. Ask if staff and guests are screened for the virus. This is not the time for any surprises — it is best to know before you go.
- Do your research. Research places online and read recent reviews. Did the hotel have issues with too many people gathered around the pool not wearing masks? Is the bedding washed in between guests? Did the restaurant have tables six feet apart and paper menus to prevent spread? Was there a recent outbreak of the virus at the destination you are planning to go? Does your desired destination have reduced hours and, if so, what are the hours?
- Each state is different. Know in advance what the requirements are for quarantining if you cross state lines, and then abide by these rules.
- Pack plenty of masks. Masks are required in many public areas and when outside and not able to social distance. Masks might be required in places like hotel lobbies and pools.
- Communicate with your family. Talk with every member of your family who will be on the road trip and make sure they understand that while it will be a fun trip, it will not be the same carefree summer vacation as they may have enjoyed in prior years. There is an historic pandemic this summer and while fun is important, public safety is paramount.
Exploring Your Own Community
Summer is a great time to get to know your own community and explore new destinations and activities in your neighborhood. Perhaps there is a bike trail you have yet to pedal down, or a farm where you can pick your own fruit. Many communities are trying new ways this summer to help support local businesses and restaurants — such as blocking off the downtown area to promote outdoor dining. Now is the time to really get to know your community! Have a staycation and challenge your family to discover one “hidden gem” about your community each day.
New England beaches are always popular, and especially this summer as people come out of their homes after months inside. Here are some tips to enjoy the beach safely:
- Know before you go: Be aware of parking rules and fees. Are the public restrooms open and cleaned often? Is food available at the beach and if so, how are they keeping people safe?
- When you pack up the sunscreen and snacks, be sure you include your mask and a few extras (in case they get blown away or taken by a seagull!).
- Consider going to the beach at off-peak times. Some of the most beautiful, peaceful times at the beach are at dusk as the sun sets, the crowds dissipate, the air cools and the moon shines. Take a camera and make sure you get some great shots! You may even save on parking fees at these off-peak hours.
It is true, chlorine kills most germs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that the virus can be spread to humans through pools, especially pools that are well-maintained and treated with appropriate levels of chlorine. However, here are some important things to keep in mind if you are at a public or hotel pool this summer:
- Keep your distance — social that is. Social distancing around the pool, on the deck, on the lounge chairs, everywhere, is very important to reduce spread of the virus.
- If the pool gets busy, hop out and take a break until fewer people are in the water.
- Wear your mask when you are out of the water for the best way to reduce the spread of the virus.
You may need childcare this summer or have a teenager who would like to earn some money caring for children. Keep in mind, this is the summer of a pandemic. Here are some tips for a safer childcare experience:
- Ask lots of questions
- Understand how the family and prospective sitter has been social distancing and staying safe
- Masks should be worn and it is important to understand how the young children involved wear masks
- Have a plan if the sitter, child or a family member becomes sick with symptoms of COVID-19
- Candid, open conversations are essential to a healthy sitter/family relationship – especially this year!
Keeping Up with Academics
After the spring of remote learning, some children may have fallen behind with academics. Summer is a great time for learning. Make use of free resources, including local libraries and online programs, such as Khan Academy, Duolingo, and other academic sites. Reach out to your teachers or school administrators for suggestions on how to keep your child engaged with academics. Teachers may be available to offer small group or 1:1 instruction for students this summer. With many camps cancelled, camp counselors may be available for tutoring children and engaging with them to learn in unique, fun ways (something most counselors excel at).
One of the best ways to keep your child learning this summer is to encourage them to follow their passions. Perhaps they love drawing — dedicate a day each week to art that is based on children’s books. If they love the outdoors, have them build an outdoor fort using math and technical skills. This is the summer to think out-of-the-box!
Ideas for Teens
Many teens spend summers working or volunteering at camps or in the community. This summer will be especially challenging with the closure of many camps and other places that employ teens. Sit down with your teen and ask them what their goals are for the summer and how they want to spend their time in a healthy, productive, fun way.
- If your teen is passionate about politics, a lot of activism can be done remotely.
- Some camps are going virtual, encourage them to research what might be available.
- Free college classes and lectures are available online. They can sit in on some virtual courses and get a jump start on their fall classes or learn something entirely new. Check out edx.org for lots of free classes on thousands of different subjects.
- Learn something entirely new! How about cooking? Online cooking classes abound and what better way to help the family than to prepare some home-cooked meals! Bullet journaling? This could be a great way for teens to reflect on their world, themselves, and the times we live in.
- Volunteer. While many volunteer opportunities are not possible this summer in keeping with social distancing and to help the community stay safe, some may be possible. Check with your local high school community service advisor for suggestions or ask adults who have careers that your teen is interested in pursuing if they have any ideas. You might be surprised at what they come up with.
It might be a long summer for teens, but with some ingenuity, resilience and creativity they can make this a memorable and impactful summer — one they will never forget!
We hope these tips are useful. With planning, creativity and safety in mind, you can enjoy the summer and look forward to an autumn that might look a little more normal than the spring. Stay healthy!
Health Works Here Podcast
Listen as Dr. Amy Forrer discusses tips for parents and caregivers on how to talk with children about COVID-19. Never miss an episode! Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or where podcasts can be heard.