by Nicole VanZuidam, MA
Many people agree that summer always feels fast and furious with everyone running on fumes and not knowing if you are coming or going. Now that the final days of summer have passed, at least in the school setting, it could be a good idea to evaluate how things went for your family as well as consider the current transition into school.
There is a lot of conversation that can take place with your family as well as an individual thought process to assess contentment, needs, and health when conducting what we might call this summer audit. Questions to consider for yourself and discuss with your family could include:
What are the things you enjoyed most about this summer or what was your favorite way we spent time together? This speaks to what is important to each person, where their priority lies, and expectations.
What are things you disliked or made you feel pressured or anxious? Dare to step into vulnerability here as a parent, asking about the way you managed things as well.
Is there anything you were hoping to do this summer that we did not accomplish?
If you could do something differently next summer, what might that be? Consider how the household ran, not only tasks but also the environment.
If you had to pick one thing to take out of our schedule, what would it be? If it felt like you were chasing your own tails, discuss what could be realistic to take off of your family plate while keeping in mind the things you all enjoyed most.
What is something you would like us to spend more time doing?
Is there anything you are worried about with school starting? If your child steps into this conversation, hold back on trying to jump in to fix it right away. First, use validation to acknowledge how they are feeling before working with them to find either relief or solution both now and when the situation arises. Avoid phrases such as, “You have nothing to worry about.”
- What is something you are looking forward to about the school year? Make mental notes about the things they identify. Looking forward to something often means high expectations. There can be anxiety, excitement, and disappointment surrounding the identified situations which can contribute to behavior during this time.
Although most of the questions are worded for summer, all of the questions could be adapted to ask about the freshly commenced school year. Of course, each of these questions need to be adjusted for age, but they can be used as a tool to help your family members communicate the expectations they hold. When expectations are not expressed, there is always room for disappointment. Take into consideration, it might be best to have this conversation with your children one at a time, creating a safe space for them to express themselves versus in front of their siblings.
In addition to having intentional conversation, you can look for different cues that your family could be worn down or feeling anxious about the activities or level of busyness. This can be as simple as asking, “What are some of the things you notice about yourself when you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed?” Then, you can discuss what approach might be best for when one of you notices those cues. Use the baseline from when it feels your family is managing well as a measure of wellbeing as we transition into a different season.
If you, your child, or family are experiencing difficulty with these conversations, with the level of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed with the change, we at River Counseling are here to meet you where you are, offering hope. You may schedule an appointment at the Platte office at 605-337-3444 or meet with one of our Sioux Falls or Yankton based therapists from your computer, smartphone, or in person at any of our clinics. To schedule an appointment, please call 605-334-2696.