The transition to summer is easier for some children than it is for others. Changes in rhythm and routine can be unsettling. For adults, a child’s irritability at this time of year can be baffling. Isn’t this when they are supposed to be the happiest and most care-free?
As parents it helps for us to remember that the end of a school year is the end of something known, an identity they have worked daily to reinforce through 9 months of schoolwork: 1st grader, 3rd grader, 7th grader. What follows is something as yet unknown. Our children need support as they work with the feelings that this time holds. Every child will process it a little differently.
This is the first summer in which our son’s transition has been relatively smooth. In the past, it took until the month of August for our family to find our current and hum happily. What’s different about this year?
I worked with his temperament. My son is choleric. The first thing I did was set a piano practice challenge for him. We set a high number with 2 milestones to cross and prizes to be earned along the way. Music is a huge part of his life and these goals bring a sense of order and familiarity to the summer months, as well as some fun (as cholerics well understand!).
At the end of the school year, when he wanted a taste of what was to come the following year, I allowed him to explore the work. We home school, and our 4th grade Math book arrived during the final week of 3rd grade lessons. When he was the first to wake up the following morning and took the time to create practice problems on the blackboard, I acknowledged his curiosity and the time he spent learning something new.
His completion of 3rd grade was understated. These transitions are much more pronounced for us than they are for our children, as they have no idea what it’s like to raise a child, watching them learn and grow in what feels like the blink of an eye. I avoid talk of him being a 4th grader. I have learned from years past that even the most well-intentioned build-ups over the course of a summer can have unintended consequences involving undue stress. If we look deeply, we may find that such discussion is an attempt to relieve our own ambivalence about the passage of time. Many children won’t even ask who or what they “are” -- they know! But if they do, a gentle discussion that begins with asking them why they feel the need to know, or how they would characterize themselves, is a good starting point.
We have been engaging in a lot of creative projects and play. Cooking, baking, playing cards, playing basketball, playing music, and being outdoors with our dogs are a few of the things we like to do as a family. We have doubled up, over the past couple of weeks, on time spent doing these sorts of things. This is nourishing for all of us, and appears to bring real comfort to our son. It’s often when our children's minds are most at ease that the pathway to their inner lives are most accessible. Encourage them to communicate. Their answers may be surprising! More importantly, it will free them up to enjoy their time off as well as create space for deep connection.
Bed time has remained consistent. Summer is the season in which all the work from the previous year has time to grow deep roots. Just as we would give a sapling the right conditions to grow into a strong tree, so we do with our son. Plenty of sleep and winding down at the same time every night is invaluable, including -- whenever possible -- throughout travels, entertaining house guests, an increase in sleepovers, and all the other fun that accompanies this time of year. Be sure to allow plenty of time for rest, and don't be afraid to schedule it in like you would anything else.
Happy Summer! Don’t forget to celebrate the Solstice with a special meal outdoors, a sunset hike, or any other ritual that is meaningful to your family. If you don’t have one yet, create it now -- it’s never too late!
*Curious about parenting based on the temperaments? We love these resources:
Cristina Havel lives in Southern California where she and her husband have worked together for nearly 2 decades. They homeschool their son using the Waldorf pedagogy as a guide and believe in the transformative powers of art and nature.