Spring has certainly been slow to arrive in the Pacific Northwest this year! We have struggled through days of epic rain and uncharacteristically cold April days. And yet, there have been lovely glimpses of the weather to come, of the possibilities and energy that come with spring and then with summer. I have noticed over the past few years as a mom to school-aged children as well as a parent educator in cooperative preschools, that even as each school year brings unique triumphs and challenges, there are dependable rhythms to the school year.
We are now in the last push of the year, when we feel the excitement of summer nearly upon us. We feel it in the changing temperature, see it in the blooming trees, even smell it in the warm rain on pavement and spring flowers. We may also feel some anxiety about the coming months of summer vacation and we may need to temper our own expectations for the change of season as the school year ends. Here are some ideas about managing and enjoying spring fever!
Our kids can manifest their own feelings about transitions in many ways. Some kids may be eagerly awaiting the end of the school year, while others are anxious about the transition out of the school routine. We can offer empathy to whatever our kids are feeling, but first I suggest that you explore their feelings with them. Some nice times to talk to kids can be in the car (no eye contact required, which is a plus for many tweens and preteens!) and before bed, when a child may feel more vulnerable and more able to access her feelings. You can talk about how you feel during times of transition and emphasize that it is normal to have lots of feelings in times of change. Kids may already be mourning the end of a school year with a beloved teacher or class. They may feel nervous about the lack of structure in the summer. They will be well-served by your helping them to articulate feelings and to come up with strategies for making this transition more manageable.
With the influx of end-of-the-year activities and special events, this is a great time to put into effect a family calendar. I suggest having a time of the week (we find Sunday evening most helpful in our family) when you note what is coming up the next week. Kids usually do better when they know what to expect and parents who use a family calendar are showing respect to their children’s need for knowledge and control over their lives.
As schedules get crazy, we need to be able to rely on routines even more. The more you keep consistent in terms of timing and expectations, the more your child will be able to endure schedule disruptions without meltdowns. It is so easy living in Seattle to push bedtimes later and later as the sunset creeps towards 10pm. But exhausted kids are not able to withstand the energetic needs of long summer days. I would also urge you to keep mealtimes consistent as much as possible. Kids who are surviving on snack foods and trips to the ice cream truck are not able sustain solid moods.
This time of year is busy and many families are bustling around to and from many activities. These can be wonderful times of connection but you may also need to build in one-on-one or special time with each child in order to ensure that they feel secure and connected to you. The more connected kids feel, the better their behavior is likely to be.
Many of us parents have high expectations for the spring and summer months. Sometimes we may need to let ourselves off the hook a bit and do less. As painful as it can be to decline an invitation to a sporting event or barbecue, we may feel burnt out by the frenetic pace of endless summer activities. We may feel that we need to pack everything in during our short, but beautiful sunny season. Stay in touch with your own energy and stress levels. Sometimes the best summer days are slow and relaxing, with nothing on the agenda but water gun fights and lemonade stands.
I know that the rush of activities that will begin after spring break and culminate at the end of the school year can feel overwhelming. Remember to take time for yourself and to breathe. Enjoy the small moments of joy that are waiting to be noticed in each day!