The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer or Days of Anxiety

The  lazy,  hazy  days  of summer  are  here–or  are  they?
Somehow  we even have managed to make summer an anxious time  for
ourselves  and  for our children.  In former  times,  before  air
conditioning that is, high humidity left us with no other  choice
but  to just loll around, dreaming the summer away.  Now, we  can
keep just as active in the summer as we are every other season of
the year.  While we may survive the anxiety connected with      over-programming, our children do not fare so well.  They                                              are becoming  more and more anxious.  

During  the school year children become anxious  about  many
things.  The following is just a short list.  Will they miss  the
bus  and be so late that they fail the test?  Will their  parents
reject  them if they fail the test?  Will they have time  to  get
all  of  their homework done and still be able  to  play  soccer?
Will  the  other  kids  hate them if they do  not  have  time  to
practice  and  they miss the winning goal?   Will  their  parents
still  love them if they are not accepted by the  most  important
peer group in the school?  Will their siblings do so much  better
in  school and sports that their efforts are  disregarded?   Will
they  ever get into the gifted and talented program that  all  of
their relatives are in?  Will their parents get a divorce if they
are  failures in school?  Will they ever learn to play the  piano
well enough to make their parents proud of them?   The list  goes
on and on.  

Many of these concerns are legitimate and can cause  anxiety
in  children.   Some children manage to keep these  anxieties  in
perspective  and  are able to function in spite of  them.   Other
children, because of their unique personalities and temperaments,
become  over-anxious and are unable to function well or  give  up
and  cease to function at all.  These children need  support  and
summertime is a good time for parents to start helping them.  

The first thing to do is to bring back the lazy, hazy, loll-
around  days of summer.  Summer does not need to  be  programmed. 
It  is  okay  to sleep until ten and maybe take  another  nap  at
three.   This advice holds true for adults as well  as  children.
When  children  observe that adults know how to relax,  they  can
give  themselves  permission to do the same.   Of  course,  those
adults  who  cannot function without their laptops  and  cellular
phones  will  never  be  able to model how  to  relax  for  their
children.   Their  children are going to continue to be  just  as
anxious  as  they  are.  For all of  their  children’s  sake  but
especially  for  their over-anxious child’s  sake,  these  adults
need  to remove their laptops and cellular phones from the  house
this  summer.   They might be surprised to learn that  the  world
continues  to  function  in spite of their  inability  to  be  in
constant touch.  

During  this  lazy  summer,  parents  will  have  more  time
available  just  to be with their children.  This time  does  not
have  to  be  programmed  with  trips  to  festivals,  camps,  or
amusement  parks.   The  time can be spent by  the  whole  family 
taking one maybe two hours instead of fifteen minutes to  prepare
and  to  eat a meal.  It can be spent just walking  in  the  cool
woods  and talking about “stuff”.  Some parents need to  reminded
that this time will never come again.  Grab it while you can.

Over-anxious  children are rarely helped by being told  that
they  should not be anxious.  In many cases their fears  are  not
rational  but  they  are real to  the  children.   One  solution,
especially  for those parents who feel lost without  some  formal
programming  for their children, might be to sign them up  for  a
course in relaxation techniques.  Perhaps the whole family  could
take  a course in meditation and yoga this summer.  Why not?   It
will be more relaxing than taking that hot car trip to Disneyland
or wherever and the benefits will remain long after the summer is
over.

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