Summer is here, as is the yearly dilemma for parents: what to do with the children. Many single parents rely on school and after care while they are at work. When school is not in session, this can present a challenge.Non-profits often offer programs at low cost to fill this gap. Summer programs may even be eligible for a "child independent care credit" when a working parent has an income. This means that some of the money spent on programs counts as child care for a tax break.
A rabbi I interviewed suggested calling one's local synagogue or Jewish Community Center (JCC) to see what is being offered for children. She said that are often sleep-away camps, particularly in the Northeast. A woman at the JCC said that, in larger communities, there are day programs. The JCC can also be a resource for what else is available where one resides. The Protestants and Catholics have Vacation Bible School, which gives parents a break when they need child care.
There are also non-religious options, such as The Boys and Girls Clubs. The one I contacted charges $700 for the entire summer or $350/month. These are all-day sessions, which include food and many activities. Local community colleges and recreation centers have their own programs, which can be a little less costly than other day camps. There are programs for special interests, such as chess camp, with a low fee so that all can attend.
Summer provides the chance to take advantage of the special family events around town. Go to street fairs and festivals to enjoy the lively atmosphere, music, and great food. This is almost like being on vacation in Greece, Africa, or other exotic locales. Many parks have concerts, which is a nice opportunity to have a picnic with the kids. Some cities show movies outside, with food carts nearby.
Play tourist in your own city. It's amazing how many people have not been to museums, the planetarium, zoo, or other attractions right on their own doorstep. Go to a larger metropolis nearby, or the countryside, for a change of scenery.
Get away, whether it is to the shore, a lakeside cabin, or a farm nearby. My mother took me to Wildwood, New Jersey every summer. Swimming in the ocean and walking along the boardwalk created lasting memories for me. When parents and other relatives live out of town, going for a visit can be an affordable adventure. There are new places for the kids to discover. My sons were thrilled to visit a farm near the city where my mother lived. The tractor and fabulous milkshakes were an extra bonus. They picked blueberries and strawberries, which is not possible on their home turf.
What may seem like a mundane activity to you can be a unique experience for your child.
Some single parents send their children to the grandparents for a chunk of the summer and use that time to work extra hours. They accumulate more time off to spend with their youngsters upon their return. Or, when their offspring is with the other parent, they put in overtime and have more days off with the little ones. My mother sent me to sleep away camp for several weeks every summer, and worked during that period. I had a blast, and she was off when I was home. Camps can be pricey, so perhaps make them a special treat and not the main course for their summer break.
A young teenager may be too old for summer programs, and too young for employment. Parents, in this case, I recommend a membership to the local pool or recreation center. This gets them out of the house and interacting with others. Some children's museums and other program invite this age group to be a junior intern and entertain the young campers. My sons did the summer reading programs at our library, with other activities such as magic shows. Young teens were on hand to make this program a success. These individuals can be volunteers for various charities during their summer break. My sons volunteered with a cat rescue group, and that encouraged me to become one too.
Make the most of each moment during the summer, because one day your little ones will be in their twenties, just as my sons are now.
Written by Wendi Schuller
Wendi Schuller draws upon her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, providing a blueprint to guide people through divorce and beyond. Her latest book is The Global Guide to Divorce, and she has over 200 published articles. She is a guest on radio shows in the UK and U.S. Among Wendi’s passions are international travel and learning about other cultures.