We are entering that time of year when summer anticipation begins. With that sense of anticipation comes a lot of excitement and joy and yet, this year, it feels a bit different. There is always a certain level of exhaustion as we near the end of the school year, but this year the fatigue is palpable. As one student visiting my office recently said, “I am just so over COVID-19,” and I know plenty of others (including adults) who are feeling the same. And while we see a light at the end of the tunnel with access to vaccinations expanding, that may not directly translate into more energy and excitement, especially for our children, who may not see their lives returning to “normal” overnight.
One of the questions I have been asking students throughout the year is, “What do you have to look forward to?” Sometimes the answers are more focused on the near-term, such as, “I am having an outdoor playdate this weekend,” and other times they are more forward-looking, such as, “When I can finally travel to see my grandparents again.” They are probably sick of hearing the same question over and over again from me, but in the midst of all the monotony, uncertainty, grief, and loss of this past year, we all need that hope to hang onto—that something better is coming, that there is something on the horizon to think about and anticipate with joy instead of dread.
Recently I read a tweet from a mentor of mine, Phyllis Fagell, a well-known parenting author and columnist, who said: “At a recent talk, a parent asked what their child should do this summer to make up for a year of academic disruption. My answer? Get outside. Play with friends. Hug grandparents. Read for fun. Ride a bike. If we don't let children recalibrate, they may struggle to re-engage in learning.” How can we harness the anticipation we are all feeling as we approach summer and begin to help our children feel in control of the imminent transition in such an abnormal year? How can we help them begin to think about what it means for them to “recalibrate,” to pause and think about what really matters? Is it more moments of joy? Is it connection with friends and family? Is it finding a purpose through helping others? It may mean that we need to first ask ourselves that question.
Julianne Reilly, LICSW
Day School Counselor