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A Time to Bond [The Pacific Sun]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
The Pacific Sun
June 15, 1984

Summer vacation is a time of transition for kids, especially teenagers. Some flower while others flounder.

Consider Flannery Quinn, 16, a junior at Tamalpais High School, is heading for Mexico this summer to participate in the Amigos program. “We are going to build latrines and teach them to use toothbrushes,” says Flannery,. “I have always been an outgoing person who likes helping others. To do something like this I think you need to be open minded and willing to try things at least once.”

Flannery will flower, says Dr. Thomas Brady, a child psychiatrist at McAuley Behavioral Health Services, part of St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco.

“A child who is brave, such as Flannery, will grow so much during summer months,” says explains. “However, a child who is more fearful and unsure of themselves may retreat during the summer. This type of child will want to be left alone.”

When should parents be concerned?

“If you see your child is planning to park himself or herself fun together in front of the TV and get bored and depressed—step in,” Brady advices. “They need your help because they are not able to structure their time. You can’t wait for this type of child to make the move.”

Brady suggests finding a summer camp program, an afternoon job or encouraging teens to volunteer. It’s also a good time for parents to take a vacation with the kids and try to reconnect with them after a hectic year when the family has been going in different directions.

Lance Wiscomb, a father and mental health professional in San Francisco, says he spends two weeks every August backpacking through the Sierra with his two sons.

“This is a time of rebonding, a time we can talk over important issues that no one has time to discuss during our busy lives,” says Wiscomb. “I know this is the best way to prepare my kids to go out into the world. The trip has always been like a rite of passage.”

Child psychiatrist Dr. Minnette Murphy agrees, but notes that while a vacation is an excellent way for parents and children to connect, getting the whole family together—especially for a long car trip—presents a new set of problems.

“Compromise and patience are key if the family vacation is to be a success,” he says. “Parents should allow for different interests and activities so kids get to do something they enjoy. If you are in a safe area, let older children go off by themselves occasionally.”

If a family summer vacation isn’t possible, however, there are other ways parents and children can re-establish their bonds.

Child psychiatrist Dr. Harry Z. Coren advises parents to aim for quality time.

“Quality time is free from major distractions, pressure or work,” he says. “This works best when the activity is important to the child, and not too boring for the adult.”

Try to keep summer meals unhurried, so that parents and children can sit and talk. For teens, having a conversation on while running errands or shopping counts as quality time. Pre-adolescents might appreciate it when a parent helps out with a project.

“I am talking about a state of mind rather than a particular activity,” Coren says. “The point is to connect.”

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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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