Guest Blog – Surviving End-of-School Angst by Laura Van Riper

Through experience we all know that the big transitions in life can be extremely stressful. Less discussed is the anxiety caused by seasonal transitions. Families with children of all ages often find the weeks around the end of the school year to be very challenging, and parenting teens through this time can be particularly trying. While June may bring us beautiful weather, baseball, and the beginning of beach season, it can also bring our children and ourselves major angst.

The transition from a full day of school to lots of time off, different social, or extracurricular commitments, the lack of a Summer job, or serving too much bench time in a beloved sport can overwhelm teens at the end of the school year. These myriad stressors can cause major tension and upset in a family. Ask any school psychologist or social worker, and they will tell you that many children are in distress at this time of year, and are in need of extra support.

Is your teen feeling like this?

How can parents offer this support and meet our other responsibilities?

Do not ride the roller-coaster.

This metaphor can help keep us on track when our teens feel out of control. How can parents stay off the roller coaster while keeping kids safe and stable as they ride it?

  • Do not rush in to fix problems. Wait 12 hours, and if the problem still seems serious, re-evaluate.
  • Encourage teens to use an electronic or paper calendar.  Planning activities on paper can be helpful and give structure to an otherwise unstructured summer.
  • Help kids refine tools that are already in their toolbox: they all have ipod playlists, but do they have a relaxation playlist or an exercise playlist?
  • Model good coping skills. What do they see us do when the going gets tough?
  • Be the enforcer regarding parties and events. Despite what your child says, “everybody” is not going, and you are not the only “horrible parent who is ruining my life and will never understand”.
  • Pay attention, be present, but do not engage and stick to your guns. A friend shared that her 17 year-old daughter recently tried to get her on the roller coaster by complaining incessantly about having to participate in an important family celebration. Mom’s wise response? “I am going on a walk, would you like to join me?” Of course, the result was some much needed alone time for Mom.

Be well,  Laura

Laura Van Riper, levrshrink@me.com

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