Graduation is around the corner. Awards ceremonies are near. Summer camp duffels need to be ordered and arranged. This is such a busy time of the year. So exciting, so frustrating, so overwhelming…. So how, as a parent, do you deal with it all? And then on top of it, how are your kids dealing with their own anxieties, frustrations, excitement, and your PUSHING!!!!
The little guys, those in elementary school, although sometimes challenging, can be directed. You hear them, you know what you believe is best for them, you guide them lovingly and sternly, and hopefully they do what you say and wish for them. The push back may come because they can see a crack in your armature. They know your weaknesses and given the opportunity, will climb into that little crack and do everything they can to make it bigger and more spacious for their NEEDS! Caulk that crack (I’m doing a bit of remodeling right now so pardon the analogy!) In elementary school, you get to be the dictator. Going to sleep away camp? Kids… here is your list, we are going to pack on Saturday, be prepared and when we are done…. PARTY!! Pool, cake, ice cream — yes, most certainly bribe them — and happy dance. We accomplished this task together and let’s applaud ourselves.
The middle schoolers are tough. Still able to direct them (they have no wheels) but the sullen, blue, don’t bother me attitude takes over your once, sweet delish little child. With this age, sometimes reverse psychology works wonders. When it comes to summer plans, if they have never gone away before, fear is really the biggest factor in the push back by the tween. Their wish is “I don’t need you to protect me or tell me what to do, Mom/Dad”. Their insides are saying “I can’t leave. I have no idea what it will be like. It will probably stink. I will be miserable. No one will like me……” They verbalize “Don’t make me do that stupid thing. It “s@#$%ks”!” How to handle? Give them two to three options from which they get to choose. And as you know or don’t know, going away is the perfect thing for them to do at this age. They learn independence, they grow, and they know that they can conquer those inner fears (and so can you).
So you let the middle schooler know, you will be going away to a summer program for a minimum of (fill in the number of days) OR you will be participating in a program for….. You however, will have ultimate decision making in which one you choose. However, you must choose one. Here you go…. Review them, ask questions, we can choose together. But on May 21st (or of course, whatever date you choose and it should have been March 21st), a decision will be made. OK. Bye….
And then leave that sullen, confused middle schooler alone to digest what you just presented. There may be excitement, anger, thrills, who knows. But the directive has been presented, and yet, he/she has involvement in the decision making. Big step from the little guys.
And then there are the teens. High schoolers can be off the charts amazing and want to do things that you could never dream to do, could never afford to do, or want to do yourselves. Right?? But it is there time. And yet others, are still stuck in the middle school sullen mode. They want to sleep, hang out with their friends, leave me alone, I work so hard all year, why are you making me do something during my vacation, did I catch them all? There are so many more. Bottom line is an idle teen is dangerous. My suggestion is again with involvement in choosing. So again, on May 21st (or your date of choice) we will decide your summer plans. You will either have a job, have a class, or go on a program of some sort. Six weeks of your twelve week summer vacation must be planned on May 21st. We will then discuss the remaining six weeks of your time. You will have some hang around time, we will be taking a family vacation and you will be doing some work around the house. Let’s get planning!
For those who want to do nothing, this is a tremendous chore. It means they may have to make decisions without knowing what their friends are doing. And of course, that is an exercise in development of independence. They may have no clue what they want to do, and anything you may have to say is met with immediate rejection. And here is the trick. KEEP TALKING! KEEP SUGGESTING!
They are listening. They hear what will make you happy. Just don’t jam it down their throats or give them too much information at once. Give them three options. Give them a mandate to select one. Give them a date. And if they do not choose or implement their choice by the given date, you get to choose. There will be some fireworks, no doubt. But they will grow, learn, plan and develop.
My kids had the pleasure of going through all of this with me. I was tough but not too tough. Listened but told. Hugged and scolded. And now in their 20′s, they are implementing, on their own, some of the lessons taught so many years back. They were always listening. It is now their time to act. Just keep on talking and guiding. That is being a parent….
Needless to say, if you still need help with the summer and help being a director to your teens, just holler. I have had the experience and can talk to the teens with you.