Adolescence Holidays Parenting

Long Summer Days

English: Summer field in Belgium (Hamois). The...
Summer field in Belgium (Hamois). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summertime seems to be that time of year when the common perception amongst many kids is: ultimate freedom. This perception sticks for some time, too, at least until adulthood or a regular job sets in. Think about it: There isn’t a school schedule to adhere to, there’s no homework to do, and no deadlines to meet. In many ways, summer can be the impetus for social free-for-alls: late nights, experimentation with alcohol and/or drugs. What can we do to preemptively halt the madness in its tracks?

We can start with providing some semblance of order in our kids’ lives. While school may provide the safety of confined activities and schedules that allow us to feel secure in knowing where our kids are, breaks from school can present a challenge for many of us. There’s no better time than the present to ensure that there is structure within the “freedom” of summer. Yes, that sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but we all must learn to create structure and boundaries amidst the chaos of life.

For college-bound kids, summer may have a different feel to it. It may be the last time they’ll see some of their friends for a while, especially if they’re off to different colleges. And in some ways, it may be a farewell to the freedom of childhood. College implies adulthood, and that last summer can be a humdinger.

We can start with some of these ideas:

  • Have regular family dinners. Sitting down together several days a week is a wonderful way to get grounded in family.
  • Check in with your kids. Do you know whom they’re spending time with? What they’re doing? Where they’re doing it? You should!
  • Get to know your child’s friends … and their parents.
  • Get involved. You can stay involved in your kids’ lives without being the quintessential helicopter parent.
  • Support their recovery. For example, if they’re going to college, help them find meetings in the area or support groups they can attend. Maintaining those ties are important.
  • Learn not to take things personally. While being involved is a good thing, we have to also learn when it’s okay to let go.  Remember, adolescence is prime time for individuation and sometimes that means giving the parents the cold shoulder.

Ultimately, summer reminds me of time slowing down. It’s a respite from the chilly, short days of winter. Living so close to the beach, it’s prime time for witnessing sunsets and frolicking in the sea. Even if we’re working or just busy, we are truly blessed with these longer days and warmer light. Spending time with our loved ones is one more blessing we can’t pass by.

Mental Health Recovery

New Year Intentions

(Image by Christopher Chan via Flickr)

Round two of Holiday Madness is complete, and hopefully, we are on the other side in one piece. Now on the last stretch of the holiday road, we can now let go and get ready to celebrate the coming of the New Year.  For starters, many are ending this decade sober and stronger than they once were, optimistic in their desire for positive personal change in the year to come.  Some may be teetering on the edge of relapse, or may have already ventured down that path.  Hopefully, they make it back to the willing arms of recovery–remember, it just takes the willingness and desire to ask for help!

That said, all of us, sober or otherwise, look upon the burgeoning new year as a summons to better ourselves. We habitually make promises and set intentions to behave differently than we did the year before; we typically do pretty well in keeping those promises in the first month or so, and then, well, complacency begins to set in. The new membership to the gym starts to gather dust or we fall short in our attempts to deepen our spiritual practice, listening less to the call of our hearts and more to the chatter in our heads; at some point, we may even forget why we made these promises and intentions in the first place.

After countless years of failed “resolutions,” and a persistent sense of disappointment,  I decided to begin a new tradition, which is to no longer make promises I can’t keep, but rather, set intentions that allow me to get back up again if I should fall short. Intentions like being more committed to my life, my family, my sobriety, my spirituality. Or intentions to be kinder to myself and spend less time berating myself for things that are banal and insignificant, i.e., not making it to yoga one day or getting frustrated while I’m driving. In the grand scheme of things, one failed yoga class or a frustrated honk of the horn won’t eradicate the initial intentions that were set. Rather, those moments of forgetting allow me to ignite a practice of forgiveness, which allows me to forgive some of those shortcomings as I work so diligently to transform them.  Frankly, the real intention is our effort to change. “Progress not perfection,” right?

As long as we go forth one step, one breath, one day at a time, eventually, all the effort will pay off, leaving us with less dust, and more fervent joy.