Summer seems like an easy thing to handle. The kids are out of school, the weather begs to be enjoyed, and cooking can move out of the kitchen and into the backyard. But if you want to navigate the laidback summer days successfully, you’ll need an action plan. Should your students keep up with their education the next couple months? What about that saxophone — do they need to pick it up and practice it? Also, have you thought about what young ones are consuming since they are no longer in school all day? And when you finally get that vacation — whether it be at home or away — how can you truly enjoy it? Plus — have you considered the older members of your family and their wellbeing this time of year? UAB experts are here to answer those questions and more in the Summer Survival Guide. Check back regularly!
To mentally rejuvenate and de-stress, the obvious choice may be to take time off from work or get away from the routine at home with a vacation, but a psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) says a long vacation may not be your best bet.
“Although vacations themselves rank fairly low on the list of stressors, they combine elements like travel, sleep disruption and food changes that can themselves be stressful,” explained Christopher Robinson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Psychology.
Robinson, who said research has shown that people who were about to go on vacation were happier – evidence that anticipation of a break is a mental perk, offered tips to maximize the short-term increase of happiness vacations provide:
Kids are out of school, with more opportunities to snack and play vigorously during the day. Many families are heading to the pool and on beach trips, playing outside and savoring salt water taffy and ice cream by the gallon.
Stephen C. Mitchell, D.M.D., a pediatric dentist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) offered tips to help maintain dental health over the summer – from what to eat and drink to what to do if a tooth is broken or knocked out.
Eating the right foods at the right times will help.
“Good snacks to eat include fresh fruits, nuts and starches like Cheez-it, pretzels, peanut butter crackers and Gold Fish, but keep to specific snack times so kids aren’t constantly grazing,” Mitchell said. “Eating frequently throughout the day is hard on the teeth.”
Mitchell recommends staying away from drinks like juices, sodas, sweet milks and sports drinks; any drink that has a calorie count higher than 10 should be something kids have no more than once a day.
“Good drinks to have around for kids that fall below that 10-calorie limit include many flavored waters, Crystal Lite and many of the ‘Zero’ soda products,” Mitchell said.
There are exceptions – particularly with sports drinks.
One of the best definitions that Andy Duxbury has ever heard about what it means to age is this: Aging is a loss in ability to adapt to change. Duxbury, a physician in the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), says it’s more than an inability to understand Twitter, distaste for modern music or even a desire for the good old days. It also means that seniors can’t physically adapt to changing environmental conditions — and that means the heat of summer can be dangerous for them.
“Seniors are among the most vulnerable groups in the population to heat stress,” Duxbury said. “Heat waves often kill a disproportionate number.”
A rare 2003 heat wave in Europe killed nearly 15,000 people in France, most of them elderly. A 1995 heat wave in Chicago killed 750 people, again most of them seniors.
Duxbury says the reasons that seniors are vulnerable to heat stress run a gamut from the physical inability to regulate body temperature to economic, medical and social factors:
- Seniors don’t perspire as easily they did when they were younger, so they don’t self-cool. They also are less likely to feel discomfort from extreme heat and act to cool themselves until it’s too late.
School’s out for summer, but that long break doesn’t have to mean holiday brain drain.
Solutions are easily found for most families, if they know how and where to look, said Professor Lynn Kirkland, Ph.D., chair of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education.
“Research shows us that children can lose anywhere from 22-30 percent of what they’ve learned in school each summer,” Kirkland said. “Children most affected by that loss are children of poverty, typically.”
Using a few tips, parents can instill their own fool-proof methods to help their children retain what they’ve learned in school. While summer camps and trips to places like the zoo are very helpful for children, Kirkland’s tips won’t break the bank for families watching their budgets.
It is something every band director dreads: each fall, students return to the band room after a long summer having not played their instruments.
Summer vacation may be in full swing, but for burgeoning young musicians that is no excuse to slack off on practice, said Denise Gainey, D.M.A., associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Music.
“It’s so easy to get to the holiday and think, ‘I’m free, I’m done,’ but to really make progress on an instrument, you have to keep working every day; it’s a daily thing,” Gainey said.
She has taught middle school band, private lessons and college students. One thing they all have in common, she said, is that their skills go backward, sometimes by a great deal, if they do not practice. Gainey has some words of wisdom for parents and young musicians. She said: