By Dr. Jan Hittelman
As another school year winds down, we start to set our sights on summer. For many of us the summer is a time of transition; finishing the school year, preparing for the next, moving up to the next grade or school, family vacations, and general rejuvenation for what’s to come. It’s interesting how the school year has a life of its own and we all seem to get so caught up in the demands, timelines, and all too harried pace. But once again the end is in sight and the promise of summer is around the corner. It is a welcome and much-needed time for everyone. Hopefully we will all get the opportunity for some well-earned rest and relaxation. Another challenge of the school year is trying to address all of the unexpected issues that arise and require us to provide feedback/educate/discipline for our children on everything from school responsibilities, at-risk behaviors, and household chores to even larger life lessons involving morals, values, ethics and overall good judgment. No wonder we feel so exhausted this time of year! Invariably for most families the tenor of these conversations during the school year is more negative than positive. It is often in response to a behavior or situation that requires correction. Several years ago the National Parent Teacher Organization did a study that found that the ratio of negative to positive statements made by parents to their children was 18:1. That’s eighteen negative statements to every positive one! This dynamic is more common in our own homes than we might like to think. This brings us to the secret opportunity of summer. As we decompress from the school year and find opportunities to relax with family, this is a great time to reconnect with our children in a positive way. To purposely schedule time to go for a walk, share a meal, go out for coffee, or go on vacation, and make a real effort to simply share and catch up. To discuss and heal from the challenges of the past, while beginning to brainstorm ways to increase our successes during the next school year. To make sure our children know how much we love them and to provide genuine praise for the very many things that they do right. To let our children know that we will always be there to support them and welcome them to seek us out whenever they’d just like to talk. To let them know how honored we are to be their parents. While we often assume that our children know that we love them, it is important to try and balance the necessary negative feedback that our children require, with the unconditional love that they need most of all. Make this summer a time of rejuvenation and strengthening of the relationship that you have with your child.