Summer. A great time for kids to have fun, get creative, learn and explore themselves. These days are meant to be carefree and playful, adventurous and messy. But that can be a one-size does not fit all picture. While there are times and experiences that this relaxed, spirited, dirty-feet kind of summer is rejoiced. Sometimes, we will actually hear our kids say things like:
- I'm bored, there's nothing to do
- What if I don't like camp?
- I don't like to do that activity
- I don't like the bugs, walking, cold water
- I'm not sure where I fit in
- I'm afraid to stand out
I am sure you got more examples to share...
And while for many, the excitement of summer trumps the nerves and anxious thoughts, others find that unwelcome worry can take over, and it can become difficult to connect to the new summer experiences.
Really, this is Normal with a capital "N" - we all struggle with change.
Compassion is key.
When we can compassionately understand our child's position, relate and support them with mindful routines, everyone wins - worry is manage and empowerment is enforced! Here are some ways that have helped me and my kids prepare for summer, embrace change, and feel connected to me and themselves as they grow into new thoughts, feelings and experiences.
#1. Careful not to overhype.
We are all guilty as parents of projecting our own experiences and thoughts onto our kids. But here's what I've learned, firsthand. If you build up this overly exciting summer, filled with stories, new activities and fun ideas, it can be overwhelming to the child and place pressure on them to meet up to your expectations. Instead, when it comes to summer planning, I keep my thoughts about camp to a minimum. I only reflect on my own summer stories, being away from home, when I am asked, or I think it would benefit to connect with a story they've shared. I allow for my kids to bring their own ideas about the summer and share any excitement, worry, fears, expectations with me openly. It's pretty amazing what comes up naturally.
#2. Every thought matter.
When a thought or feeling comes out about the summer, don't dismiss it by saying, "Don't Worry, You'll Be OK." Your child is growing through every new experience and they are looking for your connection and support. Even if you know that bugs are a silly thing to worry about, and you know that they will survive the camp cookout, listen with compassion, show support, and model empathy. It goes a long way for your relationship. And here's also what happens - they learn to believe in supporting their own thoughts and feelings, and in supporting others.
#3. Play with Prompts!
I am a big believer in creative self-expression and using play as a to learn life skills, which is why we use the Sleepover Camp Edition Mini Pep-Talks to set-up pre-camp discussions. We pick a card that supports what's on their mind, or one at random, and use it to have reflective conversations, creative journal entries, and even role play. I love roleplaying in particular because it's a easy way to model behavior and express emotion. Kids learn a lot through a play environment, and my hope is that the lesson will stick with them if they have the real life experience.
#4 Set Some Summer Goal
Now this last one is meant to be personal and intentional. Summer success can start with outlining fun, realistic goals, like making a new friend, trying a new flavor of ice cream, laying around in a pool for the day. Goal-setting is a powerful way to live a summer expressing who you are, staying true to yourself, and learning how to support yourself. To bring on some excitement and take the mind off of anxious thoughts, create a summer journal entry that is all about fun summer goals or bucket list items that you need to check this season.
Hope these tips and tools are helpful, fun and connecting for you and your kids! Here's to a summer of fun, self-expression and supporting oneself.