Parenting During a Pandemic: Addressing (Not Avoiding) Summertime Blues

June 25, 2020 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

Summertime Blues

Transitioning from school year to summertime can be a pretty challenging process. Throw in a global pandemic with ever-changing levels of quarantine, and it can be downright traumatic. So, what’s a parent to do?

Even under typical circumstances, families are dealing with a looser schedule and fewer restrictions. While kids might think that’s an amazing set of problems to have, the truth is we could all probably use some guidance.

I recently sat in on a conversation with 2019’s School Counselor of the Year, Brian Coleman, hosted by the helpful folks at Responsibility.org. Brian had a lot of great tips for parents and caregivers for navigating this exceptionally uncharted journey. Below are some of the tips he shared as we embark on a summer with so many unknowns.

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Summertime Blues

Dealing With Loss & Disappointment

Every family is dealing with some form of loss of ritual. Seniors missed out on prom and graduation, and kids of every age had their sports seasons, school plays and band concerts cut short or cancelled. And the disappointment is carrying over into summer, as camps, pools, amusement parks and playgrounds are still closed or operating under tight (i.e. not very fun) restrictions.

  • Ask your kids how all this change makes them feel. This can help create a space for them to acknowledge their feelings and be vulnerable.
  • Let your children know it’s normal and healthy for them to be angry, disappointed and sad.
  • Find ways to celebrate. Whether it’s a graduation, birthday, holiday or personal achievement, show your kids the importance of enjoying life and finding the positive even in difficult times.

Summertime Blues

Making Connections

Being able to interact with friends during quarantine is vital for all of us. This is especially true for kids, as they find so much support and sense of identity in their friendships.

  • There are a slew of new ways kids are communicating during quarantine. While it’s important for parents to monitor their kids’ online interactions, it’s also important to show them you support them staying connected with friends. Being on their side goes a long way to building trust.
  • Help set expectations for these new forms of friendships. Show them how to resolve conflicts via social media; remind/teach them common phone/FaceTime etiquette; talk about social distancing rules if you have playdates — explaining that their friends may have different rules they’re comfortable with, and that they need to respect them.
  • Encourage your kids to take this opportunity to examine their friendships — which ones are worth nurturing and which might be unhealthy. Physical distance provides some perspective, especially if kids are in friendships that involve bullying, manipulation or negative peer pressure.

Summertime Blues

Listening is Key

With all of this prodding and prying — and probably way more time than any kid wants to spend with their parents — it’s important to make sure you’re doing your job to listen.

  • Be present and available. You’ve already asked them the hard questions and told them it’s okay to have hard feelings, now make sure to really sit with and listen to what they say.
  • Let them share in their own voice… and in their own time.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Substitute “Are you okay?” with “How are you feeling?” Make it even more specific: “How are you feeling about camp being closed this summer?”

Don’t Forget Yourself

Taking care of yourself lays the foundation for being able to care for your kids. Self-care isn’t just a trend, it’s an essential part of life. It’s also a great way to model positive ways to cope and express emotions.

  • Ask yourself every day: “How will I show up for myself?”
  • Take the above advice to heart: stay connected to your friends and open up about any loss and disappointment you’re experiencing.
  • Enjoy a drink if you want to but be mindful of the impressions you make on your kids. Be thoughtful when talking about drinking — “I’d enjoy a cocktail after dinner.” versus “Oh God, I need a drink!”

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As you can see, a lot of the tips involve talking with and listening to your kids. Below are excerpts from a conversation I had with my 10-year-old, incorporating Brian’s advice.

Father & Son: A 4th Grade Exit Interview

Daddy: This interview is all about the transition from school…
Jon: TERRIBLE
Daddy: …to summer.
Jon: YAY!

D: I know you really missed seeing your friends, but was there anything good about not having school in person?
J: No bullies

D: What kind of feelings have you been having during quarantine, being away from your friends?
J: Mad and sad.
D: Mad because?
J: Mad because I can’t see my friends! Sad for the same thing.
D: Loneliness?
J: Yeah…
D: Boredom?
J: Boredom, DEFINITELY.

D: The hardest thing for all of us is that we lose a lot of our schedule. There are things we normally do during the summertime we’re not going to be able to do. Like go to the pool.
J: Dang it! We can’t go to the pool?!?
D: Well, we can, but we have to wear masks when we’re not in the water and practice social distancing from anyone that isn’t our family.
J: So basically, they took out all the fun. <He’s not wrong>

D: We can plan a schedule together to make sure summertime is lots of fun. How’s that sound?
J: Okay, that would be good.
D: Luckily there won’t be homework, but it might be nice to do some of your activity books. It’s good to keep your brain working since you didn’t have much real school. And to give you breaks from screens.
J: <glares. no comment>

D: Do you have any worries about the summer?
J: Yeah. COVID spreading way, way more. Because more people are outside more. And loneliness, loneliness, and loneliness.
D: When do you not feel lonely?
J: When I’m with my friends.

D: Do you want to schedule time to do more activities with me and Papa?
J: Yeah! Are the movies open?
D: I’m not sure — they may have similar rules to the pool. That’s why we need to get creative.
J: Let’s make our own movie night!
D: Great! We can do a movie night, board games night. But we need to remember the importance of it and not say, “I don’t want to because I’m playing a video game!” Remember that it helps with the loneliness and gives your brain a break.

D: You know it’s normal to have difficult feelings during all this, right?
J: Yeah.
D: Everyone is going through the same thing. Does knowing that make you feel a little better?
J: Yeah, a little less lonely. Cuz when you’re like in something hard, you feel alone. But when you know there’s others, you feel less lonely.

D: Is there anything that you think Papa or I could do better during summertime than we did during the school year?
J: Not yell as much. Play with me more.
D: Fair enough. I think without the stress of school it will be a little better. <fingers crossed>

 

Feel free to share your own tips and ideas in the comments. Good luck parents — and have a great summer!

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Responsibility.org is all about conversations with our kids, especially as it relates to responsible alcohol choices. Please check out their site for valuable info for parents with kids as young as 6-9 years all the way through college. An important fact: parents are the leading influence on a child’s decision to drink (or not drink). When conversations about alcohol between parents and kids increase, underage drinking decreases!

As a brand ambassador for Responsibility.org, I am being compensated to write this post. However, all opinions are my own.

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