July 2016: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Posted on Jul 1, 2016

At the beginning of every school year, there tends to be the assigned essay regarding “What I Did Over my Summer Vacation.” If the essay isn’t assigned, the topic still tends to be discussed either openly in a classroom or between classmates. For children and teens with a parent undergoing treatment for a serious illness, this assignment may feel insensitive. These children may not have had the summer that they expected with free time, vacations, trips to the zoo, or the opportunity to go see a movie. Summer vacation has a tendency to feel carefree and rejuvenating, but this simply doesn’t happen for some children.

When a parent is experiencing fatigue or recovering from procedures or surgery, they may not have the energy to engage in the simplest tasks, let alone plan and participate in an activity that requires extra energy. Many times, women needing reconstructive surgery from breast cancer schedule these surgeries over the summer so that they can recover prior to the new school year when schedules become busier. Family finances may be affected by the high cost of medical care and there may not be funds available for special trips. The side effects from certain medications can cause exhaustion, nausea, insomnia, or a change in temperament. These typical side effects keep the parent focused on just getting through each day with no ability to engage in additional activities. Many times older children take on more responsibilities that include caring for their younger siblings which prevents them from having friend time.

In anticipation of the new school year, parents or children can inquire whether or not the student will be given this assignment. The parent or student could advocate to write what they had hoped their summer would have been like or use the assignment to teach others about what it’s actually like having a parent with a serious or life-threatening illness. Giving the student the opportunity to adjust the assignment to their particular life circumstances could give them some control over a situation that the entire family has little control over. The assignment could end up being therapeutic and cathartic instead of stress inducing and isolating.

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