Goodbye School, Hello Summer!
The Bright Side to this Stressful Transition
“I have never let schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain
Much of my counseling and therapy work could fall under a single theme: managing transitions. Change is inevitable, “it’s the only constant”, as the saying goes. We always seem to be going through one phase into another: childhood into adolescence, adolescence into adulthood, single life to married, (or vice versa), work life into retirement, etc. Helping people learn how to cope with and manage change might seem pretty straight forward. But it’s really different for everyone.
Transitioning from the end of a school year into summer.
Some students are thrilled to be out of “the chicken coop” (as one of my client’s calls it) and done with another grade. They are ready for oodles of free time to do as he or she pleases. Others have more mixed emotions – they find comfort in the routine of school, of seeing friends on a daily basis, and they thrive in the regularity of that structure. How to start preparing for transition? (click here to learn more)
Summer can become a big fat ugly question:
What am I going to do with all that empty time? That lack of structure? When am I ever going to see my friends? Boredom becomes an existential crisis. It’s a loss. It’s also an opportunity to challenge our powers of imagination and creativity – to develop our own routines and structures that may fit us better than ever before.
What A Relief!
Personally, I identified more with the “chicken coop” idea. Formal education was not necessarily the place where I learned the most. School was work. Summer was an escape from all that. I needed a whole lot of “nothing.” Freedom. Growing up in my version of a dysfunctional family required more psychic energy during the school year. I actually loved learning. The right teachers could bring out the best in me and I could flourish in their classroom, if only for an hour or two during the school year. I worked hard to get through those times. Expectations for performing academically were gratefully set aside for a few months in the summer. I had more room to breathe and to explore. What a relief.
A New Type of Education
A different kind of learning would happen outside of school. You might call it developing “emotional intelligence.” When I played Little League baseball, I learned how to be brave and swing the bat without shutting my eyes, eventually learning to place my hits in any direction required by the team in the moment. I learned that If I wanted to get better at any skill I would need to work hard at it, almost daily. I learned how to win well, and to lose well. Not to dwell too long on the errors, the imperfections, the losses. Good sportsmanship was never just about sports. I learned that I could make mistakes, and still be ok. I learned that criticizing my teammates was not the way to help the team. Unlike in my dysfunctional family, where we seemed to yell at each other, emotionally beat each other up, if we didn’t appear to be perfect, if we screwed up. I later learned that I truly could go on living life despite the tragic and painful loss of a loved one, hard as that might be.
Kids are learning even if not in the classroom. School is only one place where important learning happens. Enjoy your summer, and you’ll probably learn something about managing life’s inevitable transitions.
Summer Changes and Routine Roulette
The summer is often advertised online, on television, and potentially in our minds as a nirvana of sun, fun, vacations, and freedom! But it also means for many families, children and adults a significant change in routine. My daughter recently finished her last day of school and while I was thinking of the celebration of another year completed, she woke up the next morning looking sad. Moping around the house talking out loud about her boredom (a new found word!); she looked dejected. My reaction was frustration and confusion but I opted for crouching down at her level and asking if she missed school. Her eyes lit up discussing all of the things she valued so much including friendships, teachers, events, projects and most importantly the routine.
Changes in routine are difficult for any age and the roulette of spinning summer engagements can be overwhelming. Even if you are not experiencing the school-to-summer change, this season brings changes at work, after-work soirees, and weekend planning. Progress more fluidly and with more emotional space to appreciate the beautiful summer season.
Here’s some tips to move forward with this change:
- Family Empathy – everyone handles change differently; some are excited for the change and others are dreading the routine disruption. Ask your family members what they are looking forward to this summer but also what (and maybe who) they are going to miss.
- Build Routine – with the change looming or already started, build your new routine. Try to schedule at least one family or friend gathering meal each day. (check out a group who is putting this to practice – http://thefamilydinnerproject.org) Or plan times for your kids to see their school friends on a consistent basis.
- Take on the Challenge – A college roommate once told me that he would lift weights if they weren’t so heavy:) Changes in routine and schedule happen often, so see this as a new challenge to strengthen your flexibility skills. Accept the change and start to embrace it as an opportunity to practice the changes you want to see in yourself.
- Don’t Forget YOU – Refuel, refocus, regenerate your energy by taking time for yourself and the things you love to do. Go for your run. Eat something delicious. Listen to your music. This will give you increased capacity for the other people in your life.
Contact us at New Directions Counseling Services to begin the changes you want. 724.934.3905