June 14: Summer Goals
Every year in June I like to talk with the children in my practice and reflect back on the school year. We typically discuss high points and low points, and it won’t surprise you to know that we often focus on feelings (e.g., Can you think of a time you felt proud this year? Do you remember a time when you felt sad?). As part of the conversation, I also ask children to think about goals they have for the upcoming summer.
Last week a child in my office summed up a lot of what I have been hearing by saying, “Dr. Rachel, this has been a tough year for kids.” I must agree, and I would add – this has been a tough year for parents, too. From the ongoing stress of coping with the pandemic to reacting to incredibly upsetting world events, this year has taken its toll and left many people feeling exhausted and depleted as the school year comes to a close. If this description sounds familiar to you, know that you are not alone, and please take the time to give some serious thought to how you can re-fuel over the summer.
If I could prescribe one thing for families this summer it would be make a plan that includes a strong dose of light-hearted fun balanced with intentional times for family members to rest and re-charge. Focusing on fun may mean taking an adventurous vacation or day trip, spending time with cherished friends or family members, or going to a summer concert, fair, or festival. As you think about your family’s summer plans, consider how you will balance fun activities with some restful downtime so that parents and children have a respite after this stressful year. This balance will look distinct for different family members and within your family there is probably a range of needs for how to balance activity versus rest. The goal isn’t to get this exactly right – that’s probably not possible. Instead, I encourage you to be mindful about how to incorporate some of what everyone wants and needs over the course of the whole summer.
What might that look like in practice? If your children are old enough, you could have a family meeting where everyone lists a few goals they have for the summer. Maybe one family member wants to go to an outdoor yoga class, someone else wants to spend a whole afternoon reading in a hammock, and another family member wants to make s’mores. Some families like to write a list of goals to post on a bulletin board or refrigerator, but whether or not you post a list you can use this conversation about individual goals as a way to talk about what it means to be part of a family and to balance different family member’s needs.