When seventh grade ended, I felt confident and popular. I had a bunch of new friends who’d gone to a different elementary school. But during the summer I had no way to get to the places they hung out. I had a lot of long lonely days that summer. By the time we were back in school I felt disconnected from my new friends who’d seen each other over the summer. Those new friendships didn’t last, and eighth grade proved to be a very lonely year I wish my parents had helped me with how to stay in touch with friends over the summer.
With family vacations, camp, and responsibilities at home it can feel impossible for girls to keep up with school friends over the summer.
Helping girls nurture school friendships during long breaks from school shows many paths to being a good friend, and how to keep friends for a long time.
Of course, we’re all busy! Every family has things you need to do each week, whether a religious event, softball practice, family reunion, yard work, etc., etc. And it can feel like a scheduling nightmare finding free times that work for two, three or more families. That said, it’s usually easier for your girl to spend time with her friends by planning far ahead. You can help her plan a slumber party, hike or camping adventure together. You can even help her get together with friends by starting a parent-daughter book club over the summer!
Don’t have the bandwidth for that kind of advance planning? It’s okay! It can work really well to carve out particular times each week when she can have a friend over to your house, the local pool, or park. And take up her friends’ offers to host get-togethers, too. Lasting friendships mean getting to know her friends’ families, too, and seeing how they are different from your family.
And while her interpersonal focus in adolescence is turning more to peers, it’s so important to keep growing your relationship with her even as it changes, using the tips in Connecting When Girls Pull Away by Ellen Birkett Morris. Do her friendships seem to take her away from family time too much? Find out what to do in Do Friends Matter More to Girls Than Family? by Patti Criswell.
If she’s staying at home while friends go on vacations or to camp, it’s hard for her to not to feel left out. Make it easy for her to be “pen pals” with the friends who are away for longer times so they keep up with each other! Everyone LOVES to get a letter in the mail that’s handwritten. It doesn’t have to be long. The special feeling comes from the one-of-a-kind nature.
If there’s not time for good old-fashioned snail mail, here are a few ideas for how to keep in touch with friends:
- She can email or Instagram with friends if they’ll have internet access.
- She can write a letter (or letters) to send off with her friends before they leave. The friends can write her own letters to give when she returns. (A friend of mine went had a great idea about how to keep in touch with friends when she went to India for 2 months, and asked her friends and family write a letter for her to read for every day she was gone!)
- Give her and her close friends each a simple summer journal. They write, draw or collage about their summer experiences and things they would talk about if they were together. Then, once home again, trade journals and keep adding to them!
Making new friends over the summer
No matter what they’re doing this summer, most girls will make new friends. ProTip: the above ideas also work to show her how to keep in touch with those summer friends who she won’t see during the school year.
No matter where summer finds you, it’s worth the extra effort to help her keep in touch with her friends. It won’t cure summer loneliness, but it will give her choices she can act on. And that will help her year-round!