Therapy in Chester, NJ
When June rolls around, many parents can't help but take a big sigh of relief. If it's been a challenging year and your child has been struggling socially or academically, summer vacation can bring a welcome opportunity to relax and decompress.
Still, it can feel overwhelming to coordinate all the scheduling changes that arise during the summer break. Every parent wants the best for their child, and it's no easy feat to fill in all that extra time with worth-while activities when school is not in session. As a parent, choosing between different camps, enrichment programs, and planning family vacations can be a debacle that consumes an endless amount of time and energy!
For older kids, blurred boundaries also tend to emerge when teenagers don't have a concrete necessity to wake up early on a daily basis over the summer. Curfew expectations are often questioned and challenged. Both parents may be working 9-5, with no one at home to monitor the household goings-on while teens are off from school.
It certainly can be a big boost to a child's development and self-esteem if they attend a summer program where they are celebrated for their individual talents, such as athletics or performing arts, with the pressures of school performance put on hold for a few months. Remember though that many of the underlying concerns that were causing problems at school will probably reemerge in September.
For example, last year Michelle and Paul's 10-year-old son Max had been struggling significantly for the first 2 quarters of 4th grade, and in February they had been getting phone calls home from the school nearly every single day for weeks on end about his behavioral and academic challenges.
Then something seemed to click in the spring, and by the last week of May, they realized that they hadn't gotten even one phone call. Max had been meeting on a weekly basis with an outpatient therapist and taking medication prescribed by his pediatrician to help him focus, which seemed to be the major obstacle he had been facing in the classroom.
Since Max had made so many positive changes over the school year and he would not be in a classroom over the summer, Michelle and Paul decided together that the family would take a break from bringing Max to regular therapy appointments, and they did not refill his prescription over the summer.
Although their decision had come from a well-meaning place of wanting to reinforce their son's positive accomplishments, Max did end up struggling again this past September when he began 5th grade, with more challenging academic material and higher behavioral expectations. His parents jumped into action and scrambled to schedule an appointment with his therapist and refill his prescription, but it ended up taking weeks for him to readjust to the medication and his grades suffered for the first quarter of the school year. Ultimately, Michelle and Paul realized that he could have benefited from having the support of ongoing treatment and a stable medication regimen over the summer.
If you find that you are anticipating some of these concerns as the weather heats up and the summer approaches, then you may benefit from keeping these helpful tips in mind:
- Family dynamics can make even a trip to Disney world pure magic or mayhem. When planning family trips, you may be most successful if you pick a location that everyone can enjoy rather than keeping up a family tradition by visiting a destination that may no longer address everyone's needs, especially if your children are in different developmental phases this summer. Instead of planning to go on your annual camping trip or returning to Orlando for posterity's sake, keep in mind that everyone will enjoy a simple trip to a place with a nice pool and free-flowing Wi-Fi access.
-Keep up with regularly scheduled appointments if your child is in mental health treatment, and definitely speak with the prescribing physician before making ANY adjustments to his or her medication regimen. When kids have even a few weeks lapse in their mental health treatment or stop taking their medication over the summer, they may have a much more difficult time readjusting to the return of school expectations in the fall.
-Be clear and consistent in setting expectations for your teenager. Try initiating a conversation before the summer starts about how they plan to spend their time, and the boundaries you expect them to adhere to. If you feel they need specific guidelines such as not inviting friends over while no one else is home, or that they will need to find a summer job or volunteer opportunity, be as explicit as possible so that they know where you stand on these issues.
-Try not to put off any academic summer assignments until Labor Day Weekend. Make it a family summer tradition to read a chapter a week of a book together. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much you will enjoy reconnecting with old friends such as Huckleberry Finn and Atticus Finch!
Sending you and your family best wishes for an enjoyable, stress-free summer vacation! If you need any extra help during the summer months I am always here for you.
Call us at Modern Family Counseling at 732-742-0329 for more information about our services or to schedule an appointment with our therapists!