9 ways to deal with the end-of-summer blues

For many of us, winter blues pale in contrast of the end-of-summer doldrums. Many parents, myself included, don’t want to even think about how life will change dramatically in just 14 days.

And yet here we are in mid- August. Instead of anticipating with joy the upcoming vacation, our brains fixate on how we will cope with back-to-school and what we need to do to get ready for September. It’s a time when parents need to be thinking about shopping, supplies and schedules. It’s also a time when children and teens need to start a school readiness routine, as a way of preparing for the return of school and the demands of real life.

Aside from giving up endless hours of much-needed sleep, teens especially feel summer’s end as a time when romances and social celebrations wind down. Curfews and bedtimes are earlier and summer romances often turn from hot to cold, with people feeling less carefree and more self-conscious. Parents wonder, how can I help my teen cope with less sleep and freedom, as well as weather the drama of an ending summer fling? Basically, for many youths, life can stink right about now.

It’s all part of growing up though, isn’t it? We’ve all been there. Hating to be apart from the boyfriend made during the two-week summer vacation or missing our newest besties who were with us 24/7 every summer day, is all part of growing up. Parents who recognize these experiences as rites of passage are apt to relate better to their child’s moodiness than those who insist on having happy children all the time. Learning how to face loss and heartache is what growing up is about, and it’s not easy, as most of us remember.

A healthy adult talks to loved ones when they miss a cared-for special someone or dread returning to an over-packed schedule. Just talking about how difficult reality is, and feeling heard and understood by others, makes the losses more palatable. Typical children and teens don’t have the skills to verbalize their negative feelings, resulting in pent-up sadness, irritability and just plain moodiness.

How can parents cope with the long faces and one-word answers that accompany summer blues? Here are some tips on how to help a struggling child or teen say goodbye to the treasures of summer:

1. You talk when they can hear you. Don’t expect kids to open up about emotions of loss, disappointment and even anger. Instead, talk to another adult within earshot of your child about how difficult it is to move on from happy times. Disclose how you deal with the reality so your child can know that you “get it,” too, without having to listen to you directly. The back-door approach is often the way to go with painful topics like end of summer.

2. Be more tolerant. So your child is acting like a raving you-know-what, and if you take the time to reflect, you know where it’s coming from. It will be short-lived, especially if you don’t escalate things.

3. Don’t make it about you. When a short-fused child is unnecessarily nasty, point out that it’s unacceptable and move on.

4. Be clear about expectations. Even though another expectation may make your teen testy, if you hold back and do everything yourself, you’ll resent it. Ask for what you want and be consistent and reasonable in your demands. Having troubled teen do chores is not the same as having them do chores while smiling.

5. Tell them you love them. Regardless of how temperamental they are at the end of summer, they still need to know they are loved. Your softness will rub off on them.

6. Start now. Begin to formulate what needs to happen for the family to be up and ready on day one, and use these next two weeks to get you and them there.

7. Be patient. Even though you’re ready to move full speed ahead, your child will need lead-up time.

8. Be positive. Maybe your child is only able to do 25 percent of what you expect during the first couple of days after saying goodbye to their besties. Acknowledge what they can do and have done and remain upbeat regardless of their sadness.

9. Monitor technology. Summer may have been a technology free-for-all, but that doesn’t mean September has to be that way. Gradually introduce the concept of moderation and priorities outside of technology and start with tech-free times and zones. When you practice these with your kids, they will follow your lead.

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