Jenny DuClos, Director of Counseling and Social Emotional Learning at Inly School, shares some of her top tips for a healing summer and ideas for successfully kick-starting a new school year this coming fall.
I strongly encourage letting our kids have a summer that allows time for relaxing, for downtime, for simple play, for imagination. The 2020/21 school year was a challenge on so many levels. Now is the time for release, for freedom, to take a break. Don’t feel guilty about downtime. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t get into that camp, or didn’t book that activity on time. Let’s give ourselves, and our children, the space and time to relax.
Turn off the screens
We know being outside, being in nature, is so restorative, so let’s limit screen time as much as possible. Go outside instead. Go for a walk. Do a scavenger hunt in your neighborhood. Dig in the garden and find some worms. Use your imagination. Explore.
Boredom is ok
It might be hard to hear ‘I’m boooored’, but don’t be tempted to fix it. Try not to jump in and immediately take steps to resolve it. Instead, make bucket lists with kids. Ask: what do you want to do this summer? Day trips? Things in the yard? The neighborhood? When boredom strikes, have kids refer to their lists. They are bound to find something fun to do.
Take time to connect
For families who are in a position to connect in-person, make it a priority this summer. Connect with family, with community. Reach out to neighbors. If possible, work to re-establish those relationships that may have been put on hold throughout the pandemic.
And, as back-to-school approaches:
Do a little work
Encourage your children to do a little (bit more) writing, do a little (bit more) reading – together and/or independently. Maybe ask them to do 10 minutes of journaling, to help them get back into the habit of regular work. Ask your children to write about their days, the books they’re reading. Definitely review [Inly Head Librarian] Shelley’s recommended reading lists and any level-related work suggestions.
Talk, and listen
This is a great time to talk to your kids about moving into the new year. Find out if they’re worried about anything. Find out what they’re looking forward to. Ask if there’s anything they would change if they could. Anything they’d want to be different? Do they have questions about anything? Are they curious about anything? This is an excellent opportunity to tease out and address any issues that might be creating pre-school-year anxiety.
Perhaps in the style of a family meeting, with the aim of problem-solving together, talk with your kids about school processes and procedures and try to uncover ways to reduce collective morning stress. Look at what worked well last year and what could use some tweaks. Should we shower at night instead of in the morning? Should we lay out clothes the night before? Do we need hooks to make special places for school things?
Connection again. This is particularly important for children entering a new level, but it’s important for all kids as the new school year approaches. As much as possible connect with your child’s class – with the kids in their class, with other Inly families. The room parents do a wonderful job of organizing opportunities for connection but don’t be afraid to reach out independently for chances to meet and greet.
Most of us tend to drift out of a school-time bedtime during the summer months. It’s helpful to gradually re-establish this bedtime a few weeks before school starts as another way to ease the transition back to a school-time routine.