The days are long and not always so sunny. There are lots of opportunities for new friends, new meetings, summer camps, outings etc. Let's not fear, as anxious children surely will. The Chinese word for 'crisis' is composed of two symbols; 'danger' and 'opportunity', and this is what we must look at when we have our children closer to us during the summer months.
At this time of the year, we may be more aware of the differences in their social schedules, and with this comes a visibility to their anxieties. As we observe them on the beach or at outings with other people, we may get an insight into their interpersonal interactions. So, I have come up with five points we can work on during the summer months that just may help when they return to school - little seeds to be planted!
1. Hear their anxieties
‘What happens if someone is mean to me?’. The unhelpful answer is ‘don't be silly, no one will be mean’. There is a reason they ask this, and they want the truth. Someone might be mean - there is always this possibility all through life, and if we dismiss or negate their concerns, we do them no favours. So, if someone is mean, what do we do? We can laugh at them; we can look them in the eye and say 'whatever you think'; we can find someone nicer to play with. This is an opportunity to teach them great assertiveness skills.
2. Call them on their interactions
When we observe them engaging with their siblings and friends on summer holiday - even us, as parents - and they hurt feelings or loose empathy in a situation, don’t shout and yell; see this as an opportunity to get at their level and explain the impact of their words and behaviours.
3. Learn about their online world
No time is better for them to be engrossed on social media than on holidays with their parents! Don’t just dismiss this, and don’t just allow this. Give them boundaries on it: not at dinner tables, not past a certain time at night, etc. Have conversations with your kids at dinner. It is amazing what you will learn, and you now have a great opportunity to teach. When they are online, ask them (don’t harass or bombard) what they are looking at, how do they do what they are doing (they quite enjoy teaching us old people!), if they have friends they've never met, etc. Open that window into their world.
4. Encourage them out of their comfort zone
Young people need adrenaline and adventure (especially boys) and it is best if we provide or facilitate that in a safe way. Get them out of the house, sign them up for things, do fun things with them if you can. Get them away from the screen, the constant need for ‘other’ input and never-ending communication, and get them doing something for them; something all about them and tapping into who they are, not what others think they are.
5. Raise their self-esteem
This is a great time to see how brilliant (look past exhausting, grumpy, stubborn etc!) your child is. Don’t view them as how they 'should' be from the prescription downloaded in your head, but look at who they are and tell them you love them and accept them. Nerds, geeks, sporty, funny, weird - all of these attributes help form an identity and must be praised because, trust me, they are wonderful; and if you have genuine concerns that there may be depressive tendencies, empathy issues, lack of emotion, see it and act on it. Doing nothing is not giving your child the best opportunity.
I know I said five, but this last one cant go unsaid….
6. Please practice best practice!
Our children watch how we react, how we behave and how we treat others. Please stand up for your self, don't let people hurt you, and, crucially, don't respond with more hurt. This is the unbreakable cycle. Please don't ‘badmouth’ people in front of your children - this teaches them that it is okay to speak ill of people behind backs and then treat them nice face-to-face. Please teach tolerance of difference. Show your children that everyone is different, and difference is okay and wholly supported.
Psychologist & Anti-Bullying Specialist