Summer is heading our way and as usual, faster than we could have imagined. “Didn’t the school year just start?” is a popular comment we find ourselves repeating every year. In some areas of the country, there are less than two months left to learn in the classroom.
Soon, the sweet voices of preschoolers, (okay, we all know they are not sweet all the time), will no longer echo the halls. Soon, the chatty mouths of teens will fill your households even more than usual. For most, camps are booked and summer calendars are well on their way to being planned.
In our kids’ minds, they are already packing for sleepaway camp, twirling the whistle as they lifeguard at the local pool, and having visions of staying up late and driving their parents insane. (Oops, that last one slipped out.) How do we slow down the excitement and keep their minds on finishing out the school year strong? Here are some thoughts from one parent to another:
Keep Your Expectations
It is always a good idea to remind our children of our expectations when it comes to education. Even though we have repeated ourselves quite a few times already, (as we know is part of the parenting gig), we should repeat it again.
Let them know that until the very last day of school, we anticipate them taking their work seriously, doing well in class, listening, and being respectful. We expect them to give the same amount of energy now as they did at the beginning of the school year.
Check In On a Regular Basis
Similar with our children losing interest as the school year is winding down, we need to make sure we are not losing interest as well. Are we as invested now as we were at the beginning of the year? Are we still checking homework, having conversations about what is happening at school, and being present at the school? Are we still in communication with the teachers?
It is easy to get comfortable and assume our children are as well. As we try and get them to stay motivated and attentive, it is easy to also lose our own focus. If they see an interest from their parents, it is more likely they will keep up concentration and awareness as well. If they notice there are not as many conversations and inquiries about grades, friends and assignments coming from our end, guess what? They will assume we do not care as much. And if we don’t , why should they?
Send the Right Message
Some of us may feel a bit uneasy that school is ending. This means more time with the kids, which means more work for us. Everyone loves spending time with their children (albeit, sometimes in small doses), but there are valid anxieties when it comes to summer approaching. “I love our current schedule and now it is about to be turned upside down.” “How am I going to juggle the kids AND working?” “I wish school was 24 months out of the year.” Others may love summer, viewing it as a break from it all; the morning chaos, the carpools, and the homework battles. “Who is excited for movie nights, swimming and BBQs this summer?” “I can’t wait for playdates and spending time with friends.” “There are so many fun camps to sign up for, which one should we pick?”
You are either the parent that embraces summer and all the wonderful things it has to offer or the parent that finds it more hectic than the school year and stresses out about it. Either way, our kids are listening so we want to be careful what opinions are voiced in their presence. If they know how much we cannot wait for school to end, they will adopt the same attitude, and it will show in their grades. If they know how much we loathe summer, they might crave it even more and start the season early in their minds, negatively impacting their education. Can’t win, right? Welcome to parenthood.
Reward Kids with Summer:
Five or 15, incentives work. They are a great way to keep the drive going as we approach the home stretch. When the kids are keeping their grades up and their attitudes positive, why not reward them? While we do not want their inspiration led by gifts, the biggest gift a parent can give in this instance is summer. “A gift?” you may ask. “It’s a season,” you may ponder, “not a present.” Yes, what summer is made up of is the big prize. Our kids work hard all year. Summer, along with all its promised fun, is a great reward for all of that time spent in class or studying.
Many kids assume they are heading to camp, some perhaps sleepaway, which is not cheap. Many kids expect a family vacation. Are these not gifts? Should they not be earned? Well, guess what? Slacking off could mean summer is cancelled. No days of splashing in the pool. No days of playing kickball at day camp. No days of first crushes at sleepaway. Some might call this method bribery, but think of it more like an end of year bonus. Some adults get an end of year bonus at work, right? Same concept.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes (Which Were Once Yours)
We have to stay realistic because we were once our children’s ages. (Let us not remind ourselves how long ago…) We understand what it is like to know that in a short time, there will be no homework to slave over and no early bedtimes to abide by. We are well aware of the attraction of playing all day in bathing suits and licking ice pops. (Ah…the good old days.) Yep, we are old.
Even though we are staying tough and not bending when it comes to our expectations, we can understand the anticipation our kids have and the pre-mature summer brain. When we empathize with our children and are able to see things from their perspective, there is an increase in communication and they are likely to understand our point of view as well. Plus, who can’t empathize with a little excitement for the sunny, summer months?
There is little doubt how excited kids are at the end of the school year. Even though they make a strong case, it is up to us, the parents, to keep them motivated. Keeping our kids focused on the now verses the future is no easy task, but it can be done with a little work. An important message for the whole family: invest some time now and it will pay off later.