It’s that time of year, in-tune parents: The end of the school year.
We’re all excited, right? No wait. We’re all terrified we’ll never have a moment alone again. That’s right, right? Maybe we’re all sad our babies are becoming less baby-faced with every graduation. That seems more right. But the truth is: We’re all feeling a lot of things at once.
And if we feel that way, imagine how our kids feel right about now.
The end-of-year transition is even bigger for them. They go from the baby room into the two’s room, or from third grade into fourth grade, or (like one of mine) from elementary school to middle school.
What can we do to help them through this time?
And to help ourselves along with them?
We need to pause.
That’s not easy for me to do. During this frenzied time, the last thing I tend to do is pause. My wheels keep spinning all through the night. And during the day I am planning, packing and working ever so much harder until that last school bell rings.
But, listen: Summer can wait a minute. Eventually our plans will come together – more or less – and we will pack what we need , and probably forget the most important thing like usual. (It’s always the extra phone charger and the razor. Comment below and tell me your always-forgotten items.) There I go, spinning thoughts whirling again. We all need to learn how to pause so we can do the most important thing …
… help our kids pause.
4 Steps to Help Children Transition to Summer
1. Talk to them about the transition.
They are certainly feeling it, so you might as well name it. Naming the elephant in the room will dissipate the energy a bit.
Don’t: Introduce the transition as inherently anxiety ridden. Give them the space to reflect on their experience.
2. Ask them how they are feeling.
Find a quiet moment with your child and open the conversation with questions like these:
“How are you feeling now that schools out?”
“How does it feel to be leaving your friends for the summer?”
“How do you feel about going on this trip soon?”
“What are you feeling about starting camp?
Don’t: Ask leading questions like :
“Are you excited to start camp soon?”
“Are you sad about school ending?”
3. Follow up with detail-oriented questions.
If the answer is just “Good” or “Fine,” then you may need to ask questions a therapist asks like:
“And how does it make you feel?”
“What came up for you when that happened?”
“Where do you feel it in your body?”
Don’t: Think that’s all there is to it. There’s usually more beneath the surface.
4. Sit with their feelings and/or mirror their feelings back.
The best listeners also mirror back feelings in order to show the speaker that we fully understand and that we are listening. For example:
Child: “I am sad to leave my friends.”
Parent: “Sometimes it is sad to leave friends we have been with for a while.”
Child: “I won’t ever be able to win Student of the Day.”
Parent: “That sounds hard.”
Don’t: Start your sentence with BUT.
Child: “I’m going to miss my teachers.”
Parent: “But you’ll see them again next year probably.”
Child: “I don’t want to go on the trip”
Parent: “But we’ll have so much fun!”
Now here’s the important part about all of this: The answers might be difficult for us.
They might mirror our own anxiety about the transition. And they may even put a judgment on an upcoming activity.
Our job is to hear their feelings without letting our own feelings get in the way. Meaning, we need to purely to be an ear to the expression of their emotions without judgment of our own on their feelings. Children have an amazing ability to express how they are feeling without feeling a positive or negative judgment about it.
Let them show you how.
So parents, your task for this week is to Pause.
Notice your (and your child’s) anxiety about the transition and then talk to them about it. Remember the importance of being nonjudgmental. I wouldn’t judge you for being annoyed you have to go to the coast of Maine and spend time eating lobster with your in-laws. And you won’t judge your own kids for feeling psyched about that same trip.
Have you already noticed conflicted feelings in your family about summer plans? Comment and share how you’re trying to see all sides.
Know parents who would be relieved to pause? Send this post their way before the Last Day of School sneaks up on us all. They can sign up for the Tuesday Tune In below.
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