Have you ever danced like no one was watching at 8 am in a parking lot? If you’ve been sending your kids to overnight camp, you probably shimmied and hooted alongside other moms and dads as soon as you waved goodbye to your happy campers on the bus.
As a parent coach, I know parents will miss camp almost as much as kids this year.
But consider this: From a kids’ perspective, it’s one thing for a pandemic to take away school, it’s a whole other thing for it to rob them of their summer fun.
The million-dollar question of summer 2020
I work with a team of child specialists who help families with children who struggle with every day challenges or who have complex special needs.
So, it’s not surprising that I am often asked 2020’s million dollar question: What are some solutions for children who are struggling with the sense of loss as a result of COVID-19 restrictions?
The summer may make the losses more difficult to bear for everyone.
Now parents who were finally able to instill some structure (maybe) have their children home, with no structure, no schoolwork, and no activities.
Same family, different responses
Before planning how to restore their spirits this summer, consider this important fact.
Children in the same family may have dramatically different reactions to how life is unfolding now.
One-size doesn’t fit all.
Sometimes, it’s hard to allow for differences among your kids. If you forget to do so, you aren’t alone. Interestingly, it took about 100 years of teaching before even educators recognized that children are highly individualistic, with differing styles of learning.
Do you remember your classroom experience? It may be that you grew up with a one-size-fits-all approach. What worked for your classmate was expected to work for you. Now we know better.
Certainly, generations of parents also followed the principle of “treating all their kids the same.” And they’d be bewildered when their standardized approach benefitted one child, yet upset another.
Again, we’re more aware today, but it still can be challenging to respond differently to different children under the same roof.
There’s a way — and reason — to make summer planning personalized
The evidence coming out of the pandemic confirms each of us, no matter our age, processes events differently.
In the same family, some children may suffer from social isolation –even though they aren’t home alone, and they have a routine in place. Still, they may be achingly sad. Meanwhile, their sibling may be okay.
Remembering that one size does not fit all, ask each child what their dream summer looks like.
Dare your child to dream
Sometimes we don’t ask our kids about what they’d love to do most because we don’t want to have to pop their bubble.
But it’s incredibly uplifting to be asked about our big ideas and hopes, without being judged. Your child wants to be heard, and have their dreams validated. Don’t we all?
Celebrate the dream. Share your own.
Let your kids know this summer what summer adventure you’d love to have … maybe deep sea diving, hiking to see gorillas, a trip to Italy for the best pasta ever.
It’s not just fun for children to hear, it’s bonding, and a great way for everyone to support each other.
Next break the dream down into bite-size do-ables.
Here’s an example of how it works:
Can’t go sailing, acknowledge the disappointment, but this summer we could make our own crazy sailboats for an inflatable pool.
Really miss camp with your friends? That’s a huge loss. What about hiring a camp counselor to organize a COVID-19 safe small group camp in the backyard. (That’s something I’m helping parents do.)
Nope, we can’t fly anywhere, though you wish you could. But what if we became really great at kite-flying this summer.
Loved musical theatre at camp? Again, what if we hired a director (a counselor who put on plays at camp), got a small group of friends together safely, and put on a show for the street.
It’s not ideal of course, but 2020 doesn’t have to be the summer that never was. It could have its moments that you and your kids will actually treasure.
If you feel your child is behaving in ways that concern you, or if you have a special needs child who appears to be regressing, it’s critical to seek help for the sake of the child and the entire family.
Cookie Walton (firstname.lastname@example.org/ Tel: 647-350-5500.) BA, B.ED is a Specialist in Special Education, and Parent Coach and Advocate with RCM Health Consultancy. Since 1993, RCM has been providing high-touch support to families to help their children who have standard needs or highly complex special challenges that impact their learning and quality of life.