Playing After Vacation

Category: Play Therapy


Playing After Vacation

Mary Ruth Cross, MS, MFT, NCC, RPT-S

CEO/Owner Treehouse Family Counseling Services.


Several years ago, my brother returned from a wonderful trip he’d taken and had just finished his first day back at work when he said “There’s nothing like going back to work to ruin a perfectly good vacation.”  As adults, we know this to be all too true, even if we love what we do.   holiday-1463951_960_720


Children and teens can often feel reluctant to give up the slower more playful pace that summer often brings.  It is important to remember that there is a transition period that happens between letting go of summer and stepping more fully into the rhythm of school.     One of those challenging areas is how to manage use of technology.


In a 20girl-410334_960_72015 survey done by the American Psychological Association to assess how parents manage screen time with their children it found that 48 percent say that regulating their child’s screen time is a constant battle, and 58 percent say they worry about the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health.

Parents are often looking for better and more effective ways to manage this. The APA suggests: For children 18 months to 24 months, parents should choose high-quality programming and watch with their children. For children 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming. For children 6 and up, establish consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media.

So what’s a busy parent supposed to do?  How do you keep the joy of and playfulness of summer going when everyone is back in school or at work?

Here are a few ideas to help you with the transition from vacation to school.

  • Have a family meeting with everyone present and set limits on technology use before going back to school. Schools are more and more requiring us of computers and smartphones to communication with families about student performance, homework etc. so it is important to be clear on when technology can be used and when it cannot.  Make a nice colorful chart to put on the refrigerator so everyone knows what is expected.
  • Prepare youth for the ending of summer by asking them what they would like to do before school begins, then plan a special outing with your youth to give closure to their summer vacation.
  • Create a scrapbook with your youth of all the things they did during the summer, include pictures and memorabilia to make it come alive.
  • Start working on a regular sleep schedule so that they get used to the time change before having to perform at school. For example set a waking up time as well as a going to bed time and use an alarm clock so that they start getting used to this again.
  • Be sure to have family meals together so that you can have conversations about what is happening in your child’s life. This is an important time to connect as a family so we advocate for this happening regularly throughout the year.  Encourage your youth to help with meal planning and preparation at an age appropriate level. This creates a great time of bonding between you and your youth.laugh-1391101_960_720

For more information please see our blog on our website:

Find time to play together; go on a walk or bike ride, play catch, dust off the board games in the closet, play cards, have a joke telling contest.  The only limit here is your imagination, so let it loose.