By Samantha Sutherland, California Branch Social Worker.
It has certainly been a long and challenging spring for many families. And as we move into summertime, the warmer weather and the end to crisis schooling at home can be a great time to do a family reset and refresh for desired behaviors and family dynamics. Whether you’ve faced new and challenging behaviors from your child or just overall general family stress, summer just might be the perfect time to make some changes — , by introducing fun new activities? and routines.
Ease the schedule, but don’t ditch it completely
For many children, the unknown can be very stressful and create a lot of negative behaviors. And sometimes, summer feels like the perfect time to throw the schedule out the window. But having no routine can often make behaviors increase for children and teens. Summer can allow for a loosening of the schedule or a new rhythm altogether, but be sure to keep the new routine clear and posted in your home. Include your children in decision-making about schedules as well, allowing them to express their wishes for how their day goes. This will give them autonomy and help them buy into the plan overall.
Have fun! Find some family joy!
After a challenging season when emotions may have been running high, finding ways to connect can be especially hard. Remember that even a child pushing boundaries or having particularly difficult behaviors needs to have fun with their family. If there’s nothing positive to look forward to, there’s even less reason for behaviors to improve. Use the summer break as a way to instill fun for the whole family. Try a summer scavenger hunt or summer bucket list to complete. Engage the whole family by rotating who decides what the family fun should be.
Exercise can be an amazing release for children who are struggling. Fresh air, sunshine and endorphins are all amazing mood boosters and a great way for the whole family to feel better. Find a local park to play in, ride bikes, take day trips if you can. Try a family fitness challenge or daily step challenge if you really want to push yourselves. Make sure you and your kids are getting outside as much as possible.
Don’t let the learning stop!
Academically, this past spring was a challenge for many children and families. Take a breather from school this summer, but don’t let the learning end. Prioritize reading for the summer either by encouraging reading time or by reading a book to your reluctant reader. Audio books are also a great way to engage young learners. Consider new ways to enrich your summer activities. And remember that learning doesn’t have to involve worksheets. Try encouraging your child to cook, which is a great literacy and math practice for them and a delicious outcome for the whole family.
Prioritize behaviors you want to work on
Although summer is a good time to work on some of your child’s more challenging behaviors, don’t take on too much too quickly. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page about the one or two major challenges that you’d like to work and focus on over the summer. Make a plan to praise the positive behavior you want to see. And talk to your child about this goal! Make sure to praise as much a possible the good behavior and gently correct the negative behavior. Connecting with your child is always the priority before correction!
Ask for help when you need it
If things are feeling particularly challenging, summer can be a great time to pursue extra support. Fewer schedule demands and less academic work will often provide families with a good window to pursue counseling sessions with a local adoption-competent therapist. Many families also find summer to be a good time to take advantage of Holt’s Post-Adoption Coaching and Education program (PACE) to help them work through challenges their child has been struggling with. Through PACE, parents meet with an adoption-competent professional during three virtual sessions, giving them support, education and resources to help them find a new perspective on — and work through — an issue they are facing with their child.
No matter where your summer takes you, introducing some fun and family connection is the goal. Remember to take things one day at a time and look for times to use these helpful tips.