Take Stock of What Matters

It is now the second week of August and summer is beginning to slip away a bit more quickly. 

This is a perfect time to sit with your child and take stock of where they stand and what they want to strive for in the coming year.

Ask some probing questions and agree if it is ok to take notes:

  • What did you learn about yourself from your summer job, camp, trip, volunteer experience or being bored at home?
  • What things did you enjoy? Things you will try to avoid?
  • What strengths did you learn about yourself?
  • What things did you find to be personally challenging? Anything you want to work on?
  • Are you more comfortable being with / working with others or on your own?
  • Are you more of a leader or a follower in a group?
  • Did you find an area of interest that you wish to explore as a possible career option or as a new hobby? Can you do research or find others to talk to to learn more?
  • Did you learn any coping skills that work for you when things don’t go your way or as planned?
  • Have you made any social connections this summer that you would like to further explore?

What goals do you want to set for yourself for the school year?

  • Are there any areas where you want to improve academically? What is the plan to make that happen? Do you need to schedule a tutor or an academic coach?
  • Are there any goals surrounding your mental health? Do you need to find a therapist to meet with regularly?
  • Any social goals? Do you want to reach out to see peers outside of school more often?
  • Any goals related to increasing your independence before you are ready to live away from home? (Awakening from your alarm, making your own appointments, keeping track of your assignment deadlines, spending time away from your family, traveling on public transportation, etc.)?

Of course, you may have additional questions to add. Whatever you decide, make sure you schedule a time for this meeting where you and your child are relaxed and distractions are minimized. Holding the meeting in a special spot or over ice cream is even better!

Enjoy these last few weeks of summer.

Avoiding the “Summer Slide”

Unfortunately, the “Summer Slide” is not a dance! It’s a term used by educators to describe the very real phenomenon of students losing academic ground over the summer as they use their brains less vigorously. Studies have shown that students tend to lose one month of overall learning and two months of reading skills over the summer. For students who plan to take the SAT or ACT later this summer or in the fall, or who want to start off strong in their classes, the Summer Slide can put them at a disadvantage.

The good news is that this loss can be prevented with two-three weeks of academic-related work during the summer months. Your child does need time to relax and recharge in the summer, but things will go more smoothly in the fall with some preparation now.

So here’s an easy remedy: Read!

Encourage your children (of all ages) to read as much as they can. Some may already have assigned reading from school, but reading can also take the form of pleasure novels, magazines, etc. What matters is that they read regularly. Many bookstores and libraries have young adult reading lists that appeal to teens with varied interests.

Some students may also benefit from starting with math or writing tutoring later in the summer to review what they learned last spring and preview what is coming in the fall. Those who struggle with organization and study skills may benefit from work with an academic coach over the summer as well.

For those motivated to work on their own, here are a few ideas/resources:

Khan AcademyYou may know that Khan Academy now offers free SAT prep. It’s also a great place for students to work on various topics in math, science, computing, humanities, art, and economics.

Free RiceThis terrific site covers a wide range of subjects (math, vocabulary and grammar, sciences, humanities, geography, foreign languages, etc.). It is fun to use and correct answers donate grains of rice to third world countries!

Explore Interests: Summer is a perfect time to have your child try something new and discover what they are good at and what they like (and what they hate). Whether it is a part-time job, volunteering, or a home-based project, everyone should be doing something in the summer that will help them learn more about themselves as well as build responsibility, independence, and self-confidence. Your child may need your encouragement if they have not yet found something to dive into on their own.

Job shadow: Summer is a good time to have discussions about what your child finds interesting and then seek out an opportunity for them to do some shadowing to learn about a particular field. Try asking friends and neighbors if your child can spend a few hours at their workplace or at least have a conversation to learn more about that field of work.

I suggest that your child have a short break from responsibilities if possible after school is out and then dive into their summer plan with plenty of time for fun and relaxation. I hope you get some of that, too!

The Most Important Questions to Ask Your Student

How are you doing?  Can I offer you any support? 

May has been designated as Mental Health Month in the US. The number of both youth and adults that are suffering from mental health challenges continues to increase and the COVID years have exacerbated symptoms in many cases.

High school and college students are struggling at an alarming rate and they are not always reaching out for help. Please look at the resources I have posted below to learn about which signs to watch for, and so you can check with your young adult to see if they are needing outside support.

Anxiety for some students stems from academic pressures. In these situations, it really is beneficial to help your child identify what would help. A tutor? An ADHD or academic coach to help with time management, organization, or focus? Be sure your child knows that they don’t have to be perfect and you are totally okay with that!

If their anxiety or depression is more generalized, a mental health therapist can make all the difference. There is often a reluctance to get started and it can take time to find the right person, but it is so worth it to give your child relief and start on an easier path. You may also find that these professionals can lower your stress level as a parent, as you no longer have to be the only adult trying to help.

I also want to point out that these challenges do not magically go away when your child moves away from home to attend college. In fact, if left untreated, the situation usually worsens and can be the reason why your child does not succeed at college and needs to take a leave of absence or is asked to leave. That is tough to recover from and the student often feels a lot of shame and reduced self-esteem as they try to piece things back together at a community college or in a job the following year.

Some students will benefit from living at home and attending community college, a transition program to help them ease into college with additional support, or a Gap Year to add some maturity and an increased sense of who they are and what direction they want to pursue. If your child does not seem ready for a traditional four-year college experience, it is best to look at alternatives.

I hope you and your family stay healthy this spring – both mentally and physically!

Mental Health Resources: