Recover and Reset This Summer

You don’t need me to tell you that this past year has been rough for many students. Many have shown an increase in anxiety or depression symptoms and need professional help to address that. Others are just sad at the experiences, relationships, and learning they missed out on. And many are feeling anxious about their future, as they are not in as strong a place academically as they would have been without remote learning.

Those who usually receive support to help with their academics may not have gotten the same level of support during virtual instruction. But they may have still been expected to make progress in the same way and they feel frustrated with the disappointing results. Students who struggle in school often feel shame or embarrassment if they don’t end up with the same results as their peers or siblings. This often affects self-esteem. At times, students don’t even want to attempt a challenging situation, as they have become fearful of failure.

The good news is that we can all help our students recover and reset this summer. The most important thing you can do for your child is to let them know that you are in their corner, no matter what results they bring home from school. Tell them that you love them – often! – and help them find things that they are good at. Every one of us has strengths and positive things to share with the world. Focus on those this summer.

Help your child discover things that matter to them. Volunteering may put things in perspective and help your child feel good about putting time in to help someone else. This does not need to be an expensive trip, either. Something as simple as regularly helping an elderly neighbor with their groceries or yard work counts too. Colleges care much more about students possessing positive character traits these days. As parents, we should as well.

Enjoy your summer!

May Flowers May Not Be Enough

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 year has 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?

If their anxiety or depression is more generalized, a mental health therapist can make all the difference. There is often 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!

P.S. Here is a website with some helpful mental health resources.

Summer – Don’t Waste the Opportunity

It can be hard to come to terms with the fact that this may be the second summer in which your child is unable to fully engage in a planned activity, job, or camp. If plans are still up in the air, it may be tempting to just “wait and see.” Instead, I recommend putting some thought into alternatives, now.

The need to devise an alternative plan for the summer may be an opportunity for your child to learn more about themselves and to sharpen their understanding of the direction they may pursue in college and beyond. Help them find a way to pursue something meaningful to them. It is okay if that means something low key, like caring for siblings, working on a household project, or helping out in the family business.

Begin by talking to your child about what interests them. What would they like to learn more about? In what area – academically or otherwise – would they like to gain a new skill? Life will get busy again soon; this is a rare opportunity to pause, ask, and act on these kinds of questions.

Here are some other options to consider:

Volunteering.  

Your town is a good place to ask what is needed. Senior citizen neighbors may need help with groceries or yard work. Local food pantries need help more than ever.

Many nonprofits need help with digital marketing and social media. Political campaigns and causes are always looking for enthusiastic supporters!

You’ll find a link to current volunteer options, here: https://www.volunteermatch.org/

Getting a Job.

Check with your town, senior center, landscaping companies, essential businesses, etc., to see who is hiring this summer.

Encourage your child to get the word out to neighbors regarding your child’s availability to walk dogs, pet-sit, tutor a younger child virtually, etc.

Tapping Into Creativity.

Summer is a perfect time to create something new: photography, creative writing, building a robot or a wood project, making a cookbook, learning to paint with watercolors, etc.

Learning a Skill.

There are many free or low-cost virtual classes available on both academic and purely fun topics. Learn to code from Code Academy; learn photoshop and editing from the Education Channel on YouTube; sharpen your Spanish with daily practice on Duolingo.

Other class platforms include Coursera, EDx, Udacity, Udemy, and Skillshare (there are many more).

Brushing up on academic-related areas.

Summer is a good time to work on academic areas of deficit, positioning your child for success as they begin the new school year. For example, this may mean working with an academic coach for executive functioning, or with a math or writing tutor.

Expanding Horizons.

This is a good time to reach out to extended family, neighbors, and friends, to see if your child can talk to them about what they do for work. This helps your child learn about different fields and to learn more about what may interest them in the future. It’s also good practice for speaking with adults and learning how to ask good questions – two skills they will need beyond high school!

Staying Connected.

Staying connected with friends and continuing some version of previous activities (safely!) helps take the edge off the isolation we are all still experiencing. Encourage your child to reach out to groups he/she was involved with: acapella groups, school newspapers, virtual team workouts, group community service projects – all of these can continue with a little effort and planning.

Overall, what's most important is that your child has some plan for the summer. Relaxing is fine for a while, but structure, goals, and mental engagement will allow him or her to look back on the summer of 2021 and feel good about what was accomplished.
 
P.S. Here are some additional ideas for summer engagement.