Like many families, Vanessa Gabel’s summer plans are desperately in limbo.
“I have one student graduating who doesn’t know if he’ll be able to attend college in the fall, so we are dealing with a wide range of disappointments on that front,” said the Danville mother of two teenagers. “Graduation, prom, a graduation trip planned with buddies and we had a family Disney vacation planned that has now been postponed until next year some time.”
In a summer that is quickly losing resident camps, fireworks displays, fairs and other events to coronavirus restrictions, how is a family able to cope while handling the disappointments of children who see their plans disappearing?
“There was a time when key highlights of summer memories revolved around creating and making your own fun near home, and I guess we are just finding our roots and making some old-fashioned fun,” said Ashley Kuhns, of Mifflinburg. “We have invested in outdoor items like kayaks and hammocks to be able to take outdoor getaways. Things like bicycling the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, road trips to see relatives, backyard camping, bonfires with friends, yard sprinklers and slip-n-slides will become part of our summer options.”
Mark Roberts, of Selinsgrove, has learned the art of “going with the flow, and trying to make the best of a tough situation.”
“I’m a softball coach for Selinsgrove town ball, and our season has been put on hold, if not canceled. So, my daughter and I are trying to stick to the routine of playing ball in the backyard on those days we can get outside,” he said.
John Messner, of Danville, admits his family has found a silver lining in these times of change.
“This forced slow down has opened our eyes to seeing how special it is to simply be together. I imagine we will have a lot of bike days, hiking trips, backyard camping and neighbor pool days this summer — going deeper in relationships with a smaller circle of people, instead of just going-going-going and doing-doing-doing with strangers,” he said. “You learn to get creative in these moments, and you also learn to be thankful for what you already have right in front of you.”
Becky Hare, of Milton, plans on using the summer to reinvest in projects at home, and incorporate her kids into the process where she can.
“Gardening, planting flowers, cooking meals and do-it-yourself projects around the house are all in the plans, with a focus on getting the kids involved in adult projects,” she said. “Even if they are stirring ingredients, screwing a screw or digging a hole to plant flowers, the kids are learning valuable skills. That bonding time doesn’t always happen because of all the activities that are normally available to us. For my family, I want to take advantage of this time.”
Handling disappointment with kids who have been hyper-focused on more typical summer activities can be a challenge, Roberts admitted.
“It’s tough, because sometimes they just don’t understand,” he said. “I actually showed my daughter a kids version of how the virus spreads on YouTube. I think that helped.”
Hare believes the best way to help your kids through the network of disappointments is by example.
“I really feel that kids will reflect your attitude towards all the cancellations, so as adults we should keep a positive attitude,” she said.
Roberts still hopes to make some plans away from home, but admits that the uncertainty of how things may look in the foreseeable future makes it difficult to organize a trip.
“We have a beach vacation planned, but that needs to be evaluated once we know what the rules of the beach will be — nobody wants a facemask tan line,” he said. “We are fortunate and have a pool in the backyard. If we can’t go anywhere, we will spend a lot of time around it.”