By Dr. Jan Hittelman

As we raise our school-age children, the “seasons” of the school calendar affect us more profoundly than the January to December calendar. The beginning of the year is the fall, with the winter holidays and New Year providing us with a chance to regroup for the remainder of the school year. Then we move into the final stretch with all the pressures to get it done, culminating in the spring. And at last the summer to catch our breath and prepare for the cycle to repeat again. Perhaps because we’re simply so exhausted, many of us underutilize the opportunity of summer.

As another school year comes to a close, we have the opportunity to reflect on our children’s academic, social and emotional growth. During this less-stressful time, we can celebrate all that went right and have supportive and caring conversations about what we need to work on next year and how we might go about it. Having these challenging discussions over the summer can be so much more effective than in the heat of the moment. Now we have the time to more fully consider alternative strategies and encourage our children to be active participants rather than simply lecturing to them. The more they are thinking about, participating in, and contributing to the conversation, the more responsibility they will take in following through; especially if we do a good job in first acknowledging what went well and not taking our children’s accomplishments (e.g. passing all of their classes, etc.) for granted.

In addition to processing the academic and behavioral ups and downs of the year, the summer is a time when we can also attend to emotional and relationship issues with our children. As parents it is so easy to focus on the battles (e.g. getting homework done, going to bed on time, etc.) and lose the war (strengthening our relationships). During this time of potential “truce“we can try and heal some of our wounds and focus on strengthening our emotional bonds and sense of family. Like the Pat Benetar song ‘Love is a Battlefield”, family life can feel like a battlefield as well.

A good place to start is to simply express your feelings of love and caring for your children without adding any “buts”. Let them know that while there may have been some challenging times, your relationship is all-important and you’re there to support them moving forward. The summer is a special time. Use it as a springboard into a stronger relationship with your children and a chance to be proactive in preparing for a successful new school year.