The Bridge to Summer
None of us are great with change. The beginning of summer is a transition time for our kids and it helps to acknowledge that moving from the routines of the fall, winter, and spring to summer is a time of change. Going on trips, visiting relatives, going to camp or taking swimming lessons are very different from school.
To really understand how our kids may feel, I immediately think of one of my students. She has trouble with even small changes: moving from one room to another in the school. She is an extreme, but clear example of how many children feel about change, without necessarily being able to express it. Change for her means the feeling of losing control and fear of not being able to cope with what’s next; and that is not okay for her or anyone. This past year, I often saw her lie down on the various floors of school complaining that some part of her body hurt, and that she couldn’t move. Many adults had to coax and escort her from place to place. At the beginning of the year, when she came to me, she refused to go back to her class, so I had to deliver her language services in a corner of her classroom most of the year. When I had to evaluate her language skills later in the school year, I took her out to my room and figured out a way to get her to go back to class. We would use a fun app and show it to her teacher when we got back. This made me think about all transitions a bit differently.
When we are happy and secure about what is happening, we don’t want it to end. Going back to class and showing something she liked from her speech session acted as a bridge and a way to prolong the activity she liked into a new setting. We all need to understand our future activities and have something good to look forward to in them, and we all need to have choices. Maybe only two choices, but some sense of a choice. A good teacher uses bridging at school by asking kids to share their favorite things from home during meeting time and sending school projects home so parents can ask their children what they are doing that’s fun at school…
With kids who don’t deal well with change or unstructured activities, I always give them the security of a visual schedule of what we will do in therapy, and even how long we will do it. I usually give them a choice of some free play before they leave. It seems like a visual schedule of events either daily or weekly could also help at home in summer to lessen fear about the transition to a summer schedule. It takes a little time and planning, but the kids can be part of the planning process and learn how to express their opinions and reasons, and feel empowered as a family member. And even though it may rarely be possible, try to make the time right before you leave for a trip more peaceful and less chaotic. At the very least, wear a smile to signal that your family is about to have a fun adventure.
Don’t assume that kids know that camp is fun. You may have to explain what people will be doing at camp so they can be excited about their experience. If they have trouble talking about their feelings, give them two choices to express themselves (“Are you feeling excited or worried?”) and listen well. Tell them about your own trepidations as a child and how you got past them. Authentic communication with our children is a precious thing. I try not to miss these opportunities.
Just like at school, kids can share projects from camp, a visit to their grandparents, or an event found on Hilltown Families’ in many ways. We can give them a strip of paper with the words: “First,” “Then,” and “Last” to prompt them to tell what happened as a story. They can take photos, sequence them into a story that they or you type up (lots of apps for this) or they can make a movie with their photos as a slideshow with background music. Or they can bring projects from home to folks in other settings as a bridge. As always, Hilltown Families’ columns, Suggested Events, Learn Local. Play Local. and Berkshire Family Fun provide great local, kid-friendly activities that enrich vocabulary and communication skills for our children! Have a great transition to summer!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathy is a private practice speech-language pathologist living in Shelburne, MA and the author of our monthly speech and language column, Time to Talk. Living in Western Massachusetts since 1970, she raised two children here and has two grandsons, ages 15 and 8 years old. She has worked as an SLP with people of all ages for the last 14 years. She runs social thinking skill groups and often works with teens. As a professional artist, she has a unique and creative approach to her practice. She loves technology, neurology, gardening, orchids, and photography. She uses an iPad for therapies. She grows 500 orchids and moderates her own forum for orchid growers (Crazy Orchid Lady). Kathy is dedicated to the families of her private practice, and offers practical, creative ideas to parents. She blogs about communication at kathypuckett.com
[Photo credit: (ccl) Trey Ratcliff]