Summer is just around the corner, and our kids are counting down how they'll spend three months free from homework, standardized tests, and hours in the classroom. While most parents don't have the same break as their kids, it's still a great opportunity to get to know your child and help them transition into the new season.
Kids are accustomed to a bustling and sometimes hectic school-year schedule, making summer break a great chance for them to slow down and connect with their parents. To allow this to happen, you can find opportunities to actively engage with your kids. The easiest way to do this is by striking up a conversation.
Even if you suspect your kid is doing well, chances are they'd like to see that you care enough to further connect. You might even come to realize that your child was holding onto some heavy stuff that they needed a bit of prompting to share. During summer break, our kids have the time and space to truly consider their problems, challenges, and goals on a deeper level. While most working parents don't get the luxury of a three month break, try to make time to help your kids process their deeper thoughts and feelings as they surface. A great start is to reflect on the past year and consider how the future can be different.
Everyone, even kids, sees ups and downs, but if you'e not engaging with your children, you might not realize that their "down" is drawn out longer than normal. Research from the Rochester Institute of Technology shows that "one in five children have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder." It can be easy for parents to overlook this because of the stress and exhaustion in their own lives. But don't be too hard on yourself; by taking steps now, you're reducing the possibility of long-term effects, like depression during their adult years.
One of the most fun ways to connect with your kid this summer break is to try to figure out what kind of person they are. The younger they are, the more tricky this challenge is! Grab a notebook and jot down the qualities and quirks that you notice in your child. You can amuse your older self by tucking the book away for a couple of decades and check to see how many qualities they retained. Perhaps you note they're funny, ambitious, witty, or empathetic. But just like any good book, include the facts. Do you notice a short temper, selfishness, or sass? By seeing your child for who they are, you can shape their outcome by encouraging awesome behaviors and challenging the traits that won't support their future wellbeing.
If you find it difficult to spend time with your child, it's ok. We've all been there and it happens throughout all the stages. Just keep trying, because it shows them that they have an active support system rooting for them. Who wouldn't want that? Make plans with your child, putting their interests first. Find the balance between respecting their need for independence and their need to have a loving advocate in their lives. If they're reluctant to pencil you in, keep an eye out for when they have free time and ask them to do something simple, like take a walk or ride with you to the post office (driving and walking are excellent times to share when eye contact doesn't come easily!). From there, keep it simple and authentic and allow your kids the safe spaces they need to create lives that they find meaningful and fulfilling.