CEO: The Bad and The Good of Summer

Mar 4, 2019, 10:22 AM by Chris Coker

Summer can be great, or it can be a nightmare for you and your kids. 

The school year provides great structure and consistency for the family. Whereas the summer provides an ever-changing landscape of activities and decisions for our kids. 

And your kids need you to reevaluate, retool and rethink.

The reality is that we over-schedule our kids, and the summer can give us a chance to let some of that tension and stress bleed off of our kids. Remember this generation of kids reports a significant amount of stress and anxiety. Give them a chance to get away from that. Just sleeping in is a treat for many kids.

I will always recommend camp for kids. Of course, the Y has a ton of day camps and overnight camp options, and I hope one fits for you. But any camp from any provider may be a good fit. Just find one your kid wants to do. Don’t stress them out and send them to math camp or sports camp — unless they really, really, really want to do that. 

Developmentally, kids need a chance to reset, and the summer does that. I see parents all the time try to send their kid to a sports camp, so they can “get ahead” of the competition. Chances are your child is not going to get college money for sports or, even rarer, play that sport for a living. 

The hard truth is you will burn your kid out on a sport, and then suddenly when it is their choice to participate, they will quit that sport, dance or drama program. I literally see it all the time! Let them guide you on how much, how often and how deep you dive into an activity. The same goes for educational camps. 


Maybe they do need some math or writing help, but can it wait? Do you really need to extend that issue into the summer? Perhaps, but make a conscious decision about it.

A kid’s emotional state is so tenuous these days due to the added pressure of social media and our enhanced education that we need to make different decisions for our kids.

I would recommend the following: 

  • Give them a bit of time to decompress after school ends. Let them be home and just play with friends. Encourage outdoor play and physical activity.

  • Sign them up for programs/camps that are in their interest area or are just designed to be fun. This socialization is very important. Screen time does not allow for real relationships and conflict-resolution skills to be improved. Face to face activities fill that deficit in our technologically advanced society. Remember school does not allow for a lot of this because kids are in a controlled classroom that does not create the environment for these skills to be developed. 

  • Crack down on screen time and enhance sunshine time. In the olden days of the 80s, this was called “go outside and play.”

  • Road trip. Drive somewhere fun with your kids and take the back roads. This is actually very important in our area. Our kids are singularly blessed to live in a very affluent part of the country, and they do not get to see how the vast majority of the country lives. When we fly, we simply go from our affluent area to an airport to another airport to another affluent vacation/wilderness area. Break that cycle give them a taste of diversity in all its forms. 

  • For older kids, get them into a leadership program and or a mission trip. Here are some options that we’ve developed: The Y Global Teen Leadership Program, the In-Training Programs at YMCA Camp Santa Maria and our Leaders In Training Program through our day camps. It’s the same idea about our affluence but for older kids. We send teens to the Peru YMCA and to the Sioux YMCA at the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. Every family who has sent a teen on our trip to Peru has said the trip was deeply impactful for their child. The same applies for those Ys that have sent teens to the Sioux Y. These programs provide a sharp slap of perspective to our kids, and they need it.

  • Experiment with freedom. How do you give your kids age-appropriate freedom to make mistakes and to explore safely? This is a deeply personal choice for your family, but an important one. Remember, your grandparents could roam about six square miles on average, but this generation of kids can roam about one square block on average. 

All in all, summer is a great time for change, growth and building resilience. Just pick the right kind of programs for your kids.

Just a housekeeping note: Almost all our summer programs had weeks that sold out, and we had to turn people away, so please plan and register early. 


Chris Coker  
YMCA of Northern Colorado