4 Tips for a balanced summer break

Summer is here, which means that our Wellington pupils and staff can enjoy some thoroughly well-deserved downtime. Director of Wellbeing at Wellington College International Shanghai, Jo Evans has some helpful ideas about how pupils can make the most of their summer break (and how parents can help) by balancing work and rest, while remembering to not take things too seriously.

It’s a great feeling when the term ends and the pressure eases off as we all look forward to enjoying our summer. Whether you’ve made plan or enjoy taking each day as it comes, the summer holidays are an essential time for young people to refresh themselves, mentally and physically, before jumping back into their studies the following year. While there is often a temptation for many pupils (especially the older ones who are preparing for their exam years) to get in plenty of extra revision and preparation, it’s important to aim for a healthy balance.

Tip 1: Enjoy some dedicated family time

Whether you’re headed off across the world or staying at home for the summer, you don’t have to plan massive projects to enjoy dedicated and meaningful family time together. It’s often just as enjoyable to plan smaller activities that don’t require a huge amount organisation. It could be something as low-key as going on a long walk or cooking dinner together. The important thing is that it’s fun, light-hearted and not related to work or school.

Subtip: Give geocaching a try

Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game where you use the GPS tracker in your smartphone to find coordinates for secret stashes that are hidden throughout almost every major city in the world. There are several hundred caches in inner Shanghai alone and I’ve only scratched the surface by finding five of them. It’s a global phenomenon, so you can find them no matter where you’re going to spend your holiday time. All you need is your phone to find the cache, then you can sign your name and leave a token behind for others to find – I always carry a few small denomination coins for just this purpose!

Not only is this a great way to spend time as a family doing something a little different, geocaching also builds up map reading skills and it allows you to explore places in ways you probably wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

Tip 2: Plan ahead, but not too much

While the summer holiday is an important time to give yourself a break, for pupils moving up into academically intensive year groups it can be very helpful to spend a little time over the summer preparing for their upcoming course. For example, the year 11s who are going into year 12 will be starting the IBDP (International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme) which, as they will likely already know, is a rigorous and intense two-year course. Even though it’s too early for these pupils to begin their studies, they can still take the time to familiarise themselves with the course’s structure, terminology and expectations. This way, they’ll find the transition a little bit easier when they begin already knowing about Theory of Knowledge, Internal Assessments and so on.

Subtip: Treat yourself to new stationary

No matter what year group you’re destined to start next year, it can be very satisfying to give the new year a fresh start with fresh stationary! It may sound trivial, but there’s something deeply psychologically fulfilling about finding the right tools for the job, as it serves as a useful form of mental preparation for the challenges ahead.

Tip 3: Read for pleasure as well as preparation

Summer holidays were made for reading, since you can take a book anywhere you go and the advent of tablets and e-readers now allows the means to literally take your whole library. While it may be tempting to only seek out books that will help your future studies, remember that reading for pleasure is just as important and there’s no such thing as wasted reading time. New concepts, words, phrases, literary styles and philosophies can be found in the works of any author, spanning any genre; you don’t have to work through heavyweight classics to discover something extraordinary.

So mix it up over the summer. Re-read one of your favourites, read new authors, read something silly, read something from a genre you wouldn’t normally consider, read literally anything you feel like reading. As long as you enjoy it or learned something new from it, then it was worth reading.

Subtip: Check-out our librarian’s summer reading list.

Summer reading recommendations

Tip 4: Do a little bit of nothing

Adults talk a lot about needing “me time”, but young people need it just as much as adults do. The pressures of growing up while tackling academic studies are significant and there are times when pupils need to simply sit back and do very little while they recuperate. Enjoying holidays and planning fun activities at home is hugely fulfilling but a day or two of lounging around doing not much can also be a welcoming and necessary way to ease the pressure valve.

Subtip: Parents: let them do nothing!

Regardless of their children’s age, parents will often worry that they need to be actively encouraging their kids to make the most of their summer. While this is an understandable and commendable attitude, it’s also important to understand that sometimes it’s best to let them just do their own thing. While it’s not healthy for kids to be parked in front of screens all day, every day, them spending a day watching DVDs is genuinely not something you should be unduly worried about.