Summer and Unfulfilled Expectations
By Caitlin Bootsma
Many adults are telling kids these days that, "History books will definitely teach people about the year we had a global pandemic." It's true, this year is one unlike any other most of us have ever experienced. Among the mixed emotions children are feeling this year, one may be disappointment that summer "just isn't the same."
Stores may have limited hours and our normal day to day lives have been affected. Depending on your area, summer camps may be cancelled, and swimming pools may be closed. You may be limiting interaction with other kids or observing lockdown closely to protect particularly vulnerable family members. Financial losses may be further limiting normal summer activities.
So how can you address this with the youth (or even adults) in your care in a healthy way and shift the perspective?
1. The first step (as always with clear and healthy communication) is to listen. Let them express their disappointment and what they are feeling. Don't try to squash it down or override it, or tell them to feel differently! Emotions are neutral, they are neither good nor bad. Providing a safe place for youth to express these feelings is important!
2. Second, validate them. Tell them it's OK to feel this way, and perfectly understandable, too. Perhaps even let them know that you are disappointed, too.
3. Third, invite them into the process of brainstorming ways to make the summer special. It will not be the same, but it can still be exciting. Consider making this a time to consider all of the possibilities, instead of the limits. Challenge each other to experiment with new things! For example:
- Is there a river or lake you can visit, instead of the pool?
- Can you explore a nearby water system (safely, together), and check out the native flora and fauna? Collect rocks, pebbles, seashells… Look for caterpillars, spiders… Take pictures of leaves and bugs to research.
- Are there any paths, trails or hikes around you? Even a quick walk around a pond to see any fish could help!
- After it rains, can you take the time to find and jump in all of those puddles?
- Would the youth enjoy playing in the sprinkler in the backyard or some fun sprays with a hose?
- Could cardboard painting (washable paint) be a fun activity for outside on the grass?
What about using the summer to master a new skill like bicycling, building a campfire, knitting, or cooking? It's important for all of us to remember that this summer can be "both, and." It can be disappointing to not have our regular activities, and a time to explore new ones. We can be sad about missing our planned vacation, and happy to explore new places (perhaps closer to home or at least more adapted to social distancing). We can be a bit tired of being all at home together, and also see the silver lining of spending time together as a family.
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