Summer can be amazing. Really.
Set limited, and realistic, goals for changing or keeping hard-fought-progress in good behaviors and life skill acquisition this summer. Don’t try to accomplish too much and allow lots of time for making lazy, hazy, crazy summer memories.
Family fun lets you painlessly sneak in life skill lessons.
Start transitioning before school ends.
Kids of trauma don’t do well with change (transitions) so start talking about summer plans and summer rules early.
Using behavioral contracts can be effective with pre-teens and teens, “If I get up and make my bed without being told five days in a row I get to (fill in blank). It gets buy-in up front and there is no room for, “I forgot, I didn’t say that, etc.”
Make the last day of school/first day of summer special, whether going for ice cream or hosting a pool party–especially if your grandchild is sad about leaving their teacher or friends for the summer.
Kids of trauma need structure.
Establish summer bedtimes, screen time limits, as well as when, where and for how long they can hang with friends. Post daily, weekly and one time chore lists. Place a family activity white board in a central location. List dentist, doctor, and counseling appointments, along with camps and small adventures like trips to library, waterparks or helping a teen learn to drive. Include the whole family, when possible, in volunteer projects whether placing flags on Veteran’s graves or making a meal to take to Ronald McDonald’s House.
Use stickers for little ones.
Trip to zoo.
Summer camps provide structures and social interaction. They also teach skills (ball, science, crafts). Win-win. There is no better job for young teens than getting to be junior counselor (helper) and working up to paid summer-long positions as they mature. Jobs take up spare time, they teach responsibility and there is supervision.
Opportunities + Opposition = Growth
With each responsibility toddlers through teens accept they deserve more freedom. Sometimes this is a tough lesson for parents–letting go gradually and tightening back up if they misstep, but always letting them try again. It’s how we all learn.
- Be open to learning new parenting techniques.
- Talk about birth parents and not-so-happy, as well as happy, life experiences and memories.
- Accept, rather than fight about, things that don’t matter. The color or cut of hair shouldn’t be an issue if it’s clean, as long as not a culturally negative message such as gang identification. Once youth reach the age of job interviews this may have to be re-evaluated.
- Be a parent, not a buddy. Set boundaries, consistently enforce consequences, praise out loud (only for honest effort or achievements though), and say “no” when safety or inappropriate behaviors need to be stopped.
- Meet every friend and their parents. Ask about (ignore the eye rolls and “no one else’s parents” propaganda) parental supervision, guns in the home, drugs (medical and legal recreational), screen limits on content and/or time.
- Listen before you pass judgement –things do happen that are out of your child’s control. The problem is if there is a pattern of “not my fault”. Make consequences fit behavior. Remember grounding, or taking away a privilege grounds you too, or turns you into the warden. Better to talk about, “What could you have done differently? Or, what can you do now (like maybe call and apologize or make a list of emergency numbers to call when they can’t reach you next time and curfew looms.)”
Don’t forget that miracles are all around us. Model thankfulness, kindness and having a sense of humor.
(Drawn by Lola, my great grandniece).