April 2014
Supporting Parents. Fostering Change.

 

Shifting Gears: Preparing for Summer's Start
 

I know for some of you, summer seems very far off. Schools tend to schedule a lot of activities this time of year; plays, concerts, field trips, honor roll assemblies, and end of year picnics. It can have that same feel that the winter holidays have. Too much to do and not enough time to do it.  

 

 

 

For our kids it can also feel a bit like a race to the finish. The expectation is that they will buckle down and focus on what needs to be done. All the while, the weather is getting nicer, the days are getting longer and it is harder to maintain that level of dedication. It's understandable. As parents, we are also guilty of what my mother calls, "short-timer's syndrome." It's the feeling that we are ready to move on to the next thing and get a bit lax about what is right in front of us. This not only applies to that last week of work before a vacation, but also the temptation to ignore things that are going on with our kids with the thought that school is almost over and summer will be a cure all. However, the transition from the structured busy that is school and extracurricular activities to the comparatively unstructured days and weeks of summer, definitely presents its own challenges.  

      

So how can we, as parents, make the most of the time we get over the summer to stay connected while preparing our children for the road ahead?

 

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Dear Cathi 

 
My son, John, has been coming home from school complaining that he has no friends, plays alone at recess and sits by himself at lunch. Hearing this is heartbreaking. My husband and I are both outgoing so it is hard to relate. He is not a shy child but I don't know what to do or how to help him fit in?

Help!

Julie



Dear Julie,

Many children feel like they don't fit in at some point. Even adults feel that way occasionally: we all experience being "alone in a room full of people."

With kids, the need to be part of a group is instinctual; it's survival. They want to fit in and be like everyone else because it gives them a sense of safety and security. So when your child tells you they don't fit in, they're also saying, "I'm vulnerable."

Your child is going to feel like the problem is huge so you have to be the one to say, "I'm sorry. That's hard," and then bring it down to its right size.

When your child is getting picked on for being different (whether actual or perceived) know that it's excruciatingly painful for him. But you also need to realize as a parent that you can't fix it; there's nothing that you can say or do in the immediate moment that's going to take that pain away. So don't waste time or energy looking for a single solution. Instead, start working with your child to give him the skills he needs to solve the problem he's facing right now.

So what is your role as a parent in this situation? One job is to balance reassurance with coaching. When talking to your child, remind him that a lot of other kids have gone through the same thing and made it through okay. Give him some perspective on the issue, the knowledge that this is not the end of the world. Also, in your own mind, don't let it be the end of the world.

This is the time to be a coach and teacher to your child. Coaches reinforce and remind kids of skills that have already been acquired. Teachers help kids identify and develop the skills they need to solve an individual problem. It's a powerful thing to be able to help your child identify and solve his problems because you're giving him a tool that will aid him the rest of his life.

You also need to continue setting limits even if your child is feeling bad or down. Let him know you still expect him to carry out his responsibilities and complete tasks. If he's upset after school, you may give him a few minutes and then get started with homework. The limit-setting function of a parent is very important during these times. You can be loving and concerned, but it's up to you to keep this problem in perspective. Your child may make the problem huge, so you have to be the one to empathize and then bring it down to its right size. That way, your child is still being responsible and still keeping up with the tasks in his life.

I hope this helps.

Warmly,

Cathi
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