Sometimes parents welcome it, while it seems that almost always, children dread it. What am I talking about? The end of summer. To parents, it can signal the conclusion of finding babysitters, refereeing a staggering number of fights, and answering the question, “What can I do today?” To children, it most certainly signals carefree days morphing into those filled with early mornings, rigor, and homework.
As the “golden months” come to a close, making way for the busyness of fall, families often are also left to deal with a myriad of “guilt” or “grief” types of emotions. For instance, if summer didn’t quite go as planned - the trips were canceled, or the family time parents over promised just didn’t happen - guilty angst can creep into a mom or dad’s heart. On the other hand, if the summer was especially sweet, instead of being grateful for the time spent, resentment can set in at the thought of the “back to school” commitments that tend to pull families in a myriad of directions.
How can families make the transition from summer to fall in the best, most painless ways possible? Our family certainly did not perfect this transition, but in the 22 years in which we were annually sending someone “back to school,” we did find some things that helped.
One thing we found that enabled us to run a bit smoother when summer stopped and school started, was the effort of preparing ourselves before we prepared our kids. My wife would laugh and say, “Well, babe! School starts in a few weeks, so time to get the pen, calendar, and checkbook out!” The amount of scheduling, paperwork, and fees that hit parents of only one child can be daunting, but throw some more kids into the mix, and you very quickly can feel buried and broke. We gave ourselves notice to get ready. We tried to look at the budget and make accommodations for the activity, sports, music, and materials’ costs, often for three, teenage boys. Oh, and did I mention lunch money? For three, teenage boys? You bet we had to plan for that one!
My wife was the master planner when it came to the kids, and would make sure that the huge (but somehow stylish) dry-erase wall calendar with the markers in colors for each family member, was ready to be filled in as soon as the school schedules started coming home. She also set up a filing crate, in which each boy had separate files for the portions of syllabi that didn’t have to be signed and returned to school. Also into the crate went copies of upcoming class project expectations (much needed in order to avoid late night poster board runs!), or team and class phone trees. My wife would tell you that she is a pretty free-spirited, easy-going person, and that is the very reason why she needed systems. It’s hard enough to get back into the swing of school. Most of us parents know it’s even harder when forms are lost and kids miss first practices.
After parents fully realize summer is winding down and fall is just around the corner, it’s time to prep the kids. There are some youngsters who enjoy heading back to school. Having both grown up in the country, my wife and I were always somewhat eager for fall, just to (pre-cell phone and social media) connect with our friends again on a daily basis. But, most kids have a hard time getting back into the routine. It isn’t easy, but aiming for earlier bedtimes as the summer months begin to wane is a great thing to strive for. In addition to that, setting aside some one-on-one time with each child to discuss or address fears or concerns he or she may have about the upcoming school year can be very comforting and reassuring. Especially if they are transitioning to Jr. High, High School or even College.
There are many things parents and children can do together, as well as individually, to send summer off into the sunset well. And you never know...there may be some leftover fireworks from the 4th of July to really make it feel like a celebration. The bottom line...be intentional. Intentionality always seems to open the door to smoother transitions. Have a happy fall!