The next step for parents: Transitioning into summer
By Leah Persky, PhD & Certified Family Life Educator • Family Life Education Manager
The moments that many of us of been waiting months for are here; summer-like weather and significantly reduced rates of COVID-19 in Minnesota, and in many places across the country. With all of this excitement and what seems like an abrupt change in mask-wearing requirements, things just feel different. Excitement is in the air, and planning and travel now seem possible. Connecting with friends and family, and engaging with the world as we have been longing to do for so long is within reach for many people. It just feels amazing and wonderful, and well, a bit uncertain and not really normal.
This past year has impacted us in complex and often different ways. The relief many of us feel right now is tinged with perhaps a bit of hesitancy or anxiety. For many of us, it is the abrupt transition to this new phase of the pandemic. It will take time to adjust, as it always does with new things. This need for transitions and the backdrop of the continued existence of COVID-19 in our communities makes the transition crucial.
The transition is something that parents and caregivers need to be especially thoughtful about. If you are a parent or have spent much time with young children, you know that transitions are very important and go hand-in-hand with the use of routines or schedules that are predictable and tailored to meet your family’s needs. As we think about what the beautiful summer ahead will hold, here are some suggestions for preparing and planning for your camps, trips, school, everyday activities, and family get-togethers. These suggestions are tailored for school-aged children, but people of all ages may find them useful.
1. Go slowly. This is especially important if you and your family have been working and schooling primarily from home over the last year. Don’t cram your schedule full – too many fun activities will also be draining and tiresome.
2. Talk to your children about the safety of doing different activities and what rules exist at camps or other locations. Make the child feel safe and protected. Leave space for questions and come up with a plan about what approach makes the most sense for your family and child. You may also want to practice any new routines or protections your child will take. Will they wear a mask or not? Practice either way if it is something new.
With the lifting of the mask mandates in many locations, many parents are feeling confused about what is safe, especially if you have young children who are not vaccinated, and the adults in the home are. There are no clear answers here, and the possibility of transmitting COVID from a vaccinated adult to an unvaccinated child, is very small, but not impossible. Do some research and see what you are comfortable with, especially in settings where you will encounter other unvaccinated people, whether they are children or not. Keeping up the safety protocols for the unvaccinated throughout the summer is the safest path forward. This means masks should stay on indoors for kids and parents who are around others whose vaccination status is unknown.
For more guidance on this topic, see the following: https://kstp.com/coronavirus/health-experts-say-children-should-continue-wearing-masks-as-minnesota-lifts-mandate/6108441/ and https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/facecover.html
3. Connect with camps or classes where your child will spend time this summer beforehand. Ask questions and discuss with your child, so they are part of the conversation. Take time to drive by the camp or visit the location a few weeks before an activity starts. This may help to ease nerves. If your child is experiencing a lot of anxiety, you may want to see if they can take a tour or do a video call with a counselor or staff member.
4. Acknowledge that things may feel different, even if you are doing something you have done in summers’ past.
5. Be flexible. If this year has taught us anything, it is that we are resilient and the world is a changeable place. Remind yourself and your family of how strong we have been and how much we have grown over the past year. Remember just how different things felt last summer? We have come such a long way and are well prepared to handle the upcoming challenges and joy of the coming summer.
6. Leave space and time to decompress, for adults and children alike. For many working adults, this summer may also be a transition back into working outside of the home. This will be a major schedule change for many families. Also acknowledge that many children may have mixed emotions about the end of the school year. The school year has brought some normalcy to many children whose normal schedules have been turned upside down. It may be your child is not looking forward to leaving their current teacher and classmates, even if they only ever saw them over Zoom. I know my son is feeling this way, and is already talked about missing his beloved first grade teacher, even though several weeks of school still remain. On the other hand, you and your child may be feeling exhausted and waiting for summer. Either and both feelings are to be expected, and may change depending on the day
7. Be realistic and expect uncertainty to remain.
8. Think strategically about the times of transition in your family’s day. For many parents, the hardest part of the day is getting out the door, transitioning calmly at home after school or camp, transitions away from screens or other activities your child enjoys, and of course, bed time.
While there is no one easy answer, giving yourself extra time and prepping yourself and your family beforehand is key. Whether you put visual reminders up, have your child help to prepare for the next day in some way (pick out clothes or pack snacks, for example) and importantly, give yourself some breathing room after the transition. You need transitions yourself and parents often forget this. If we constantly have to jump from one thing to the next without even five minutes of space, the day feels like one long slog where you cannot catch up. Prepare and plan for that, especially if your own schedule will change too.
9. I often talk to parents and teachers about the importance of self-care, and I know this is a continual challenge for many time-stressed parents. I cannot stress the importance of caring for yourself enough. If we don’t do it, no one else is going to. Don’t make it another should. Make it meaningful to you and realistic. Put it on your calendar and treat it like a meeting – that is what it is. Make time to take care of you this summer; we all need this. Michelle Obama says it best:
The transitions and changes, even if they are good, can cause stress. The coming transition into summer and finding our new way of being in the world at this stage of the pandemic will take us all time to adjust to. Contact JFCS if you need support along the way. Our parent coaching program is up and running, schedule your first free 30-minute meeting today at 952-546-0616 or fill out the online interest form here. Wishing you a safe, sunny and memorable summer ahead!