June is a month filled with transitions as well as more time for family bonding. School will be letting out which may create some wiggle room in your family's schedule to spend more time together.
However, most families need and want some routine for children, so camps and summer school are options that start this month. And let’s not forget June also holds a special day for our dads.
Since children tend to do best when they know what to expect, extra care and planning is advised to create a smooth ride for the upcoming changes in routine. Parents should expect their children will react to some of these transitions by coping however they know best.
This may include engaging in behaviors that drive parents bonkers. The amount and type of behavioral “acting out” will depend on your child's temperament, and how he/she typically reacts to change, as well as any developmental issues he/she may be experiencing.
It can be helpful to remember to expect some mild behavioral blips from children during transitions so that you aren't caught off guard pondering what happened to your wunderkind.
Now is also a time to cut yourself some slack, as you too may feel a bit out of sorts as the family schedule changes in the beginning of summer. This is a great time to model for your children how to take care of yourself and use positive coping strategies in the midst of stress.
One way to cope is to incorporate the use of ritual. Creating ritual for our families decreases anxiety and increases bonding and growth. Ritual can be extraordinarily simple so don’t fret or make it more complicated than necessary.
This can be something as easy as taking a picture together on the last day of school or writing/drawing a thank-you card to their teacher. The idea is to have something built into the transition that is predictable, pleasant and meaningful to mark the change.
Father’s Day is a June event that can be an excellent bonding experience for families. One way to make it truly enjoyable and conducive to bonding is by also giving it your own family signature.
No family should force itself to conform to a cookie cutter, “greeting card” version of the day. Do what makes sense for you, paying attention to your family’s stage of development.
Are you a new family with children under 5? Well, at this point in time the activity probably won’t be too rigorous or even last much of the day.
Who wants to treat Dad to cranky, overtired little ones? (OK, maybe the sleep-deprived co-parent would get a certain sense of glee out of that, but for the greater good we’re going to resist that temptation, right?)
No matter the stage of development of your family, consider something that everyone can enjoy. Depending on your family, this might mean a short activity (walk, game of Frisbee, movie, lunch) and then perhaps something special that Dad wants to do on his own.
We often acknowledge that moms need space, but the truth is dads need their own time as well; we all do! Again, each family will have different needs at each stage in their development. There is no shame in being honest about what works best in any given year for your family and adjusting your plans accordingly.
Divorced or separated families may need to work out Father’s Day a little differently. The number one fact to keep in mind is our ex-spouse is still our child’s parent.
Children need to have space to honor and bond with each of their parents even if the parents feel nothing but ill will toward each other. Divorce pulls us in many emotional directions but it is vital that we, as the grown-ups, keep focused on the needs of our children.
So even if we don’t feel our ex-spouse is the best person or even best parent, we must provide opportunity for our children to go through the rituals our culture provides for honoring their parents.
After school lets out, it’s time to swing into the summer schedule. This can mean any combination of day care, camp, summer school, vacation or a summer job starting for our families.
Take time to let your children know what the scheduling changes will be. Children thrive on routine, so do your best to have a plan for your children.
If you’re patching plans together as sometimes happens; my advice is: “never let ’em see you sweat.” Children feel most secure when they know their parents have things under control.
So, if getting childcare and camps lined up isn’t going well, it’s best to keep that under wraps. Vent and problem solve with the adults in your life away from the mini-spies that are your children.
If they have questions you don’t have answers to just yet, tell them, “We’re working on it; we’ll let you know what we’ve decided as soon as we know.” By speaking with confidence you are providing your child with a solid sense of security.
Posting a calendar with the new schedule or pictures of upcoming activities will also lend stability to this relatively unstructured time.
Last, but not least, remember to get outside and simply enjoy your children. We live in an area with an exceptionally beautiful but short summertime. Take advantage the best you can of the extra time with them.
Walks, swimming, Wiffle ball, movies and concerts on the green all are free, or nearly free. Don't miss out on enjoying these summer activities together.
And hey, it’s June, wild strawberries are all over the place – see if you can hunt some down together!
Laura Kelloway, LICSW, is program manager of Outpatient Child & Adolescent Services at the Anna Marsh Behavioral Care Clinic in Brattleboro.