As the kids are counting down the days to summer break, many parents and caregivers are preparing themselves for the increased noise, chaos and conflict that comes with having everyone at home with a lot of energy and hours of free time on their hands.
When you are raising a child with attachment problems, the common issues that arise over the summer are often exacerbated. Children with disordered attachment tend to have difficulty regulating their behaviors. They often have poor coping skills and are frequently impulsive. They can be angry and defiant, or hopeless and untrusting. This is a challenging combination when the structures of the school day and after-school activities aren’t in place.
Certainly, getting children outside and involved in sports, activities and summer jobs are great ways to keep kids busy, engaged and happy. But here are some parenting recommendations to help you foster positive outcomes when they are home:
Be Calm and Confident
To be calm is synonymous with being level-headed, peaceful, patient and composed. However, remaining calm isn’t easy — especially if you have challenging children.
The usual reactions of frustrated parents are to impose their wills, retaliate or withdraw to avoid a fight. While those approaches may bring short-term satisfaction to the parent, they aren’t the building blocks for establishing a loving, lifelong relationship. The only effective way to positively influence children is to gain their trust, making them willing — not necessarily happy — to follow your direction. A calm and consistent approach to parenting works best.
But even if you aren’t always able to keep your cool, be confident in your parenting. Many parents have the tendency to question themselves. But constantly doubting yourself and your parenting abilities is just not healthy. Instead, trust that what you are doing is helping your children. Be confident. If you have confidence in yourself, then your children will also. Children feel safe with confident parents, who they see as capable and dependable.
Routines – such as eating dinner, getting dressed or preparing for bed – are patterned interactions that occur with predictable regularity in the course of everyday living. Routines provide a way to accomplish a certain task and an opportunity to connect with your child. They organize family life, reinforce family identity and enhance a sense of belonging. Try to avoid the summer creep of letting your child sleep into the day and stay up all night.
Giving children chores helps them feel a sense of responsibility and connectedness to their family. Chores can increase self-confidence, internalize values, and encourage children to become cooperative with family members. They are basic character-building opportunities that have the added benefit of adding structure to the day. Make sure you hold your children accountable for completing their chores.
Problem-solving is critical to every part of our lives, both personal and professional. It is the process of identifying a problem, developing possible solution paths, and taking the appropriate course of action. Strong problem-solving skills empower us to face a dilemma head-on, use already-familiar techniques to reach a desired outcome, and solve the problem with the least difficulty possible in the most effective way.
In the family setting, having good problem-solving abilities makes us feel competent and hopeful and strengthens our relationships.
Navigate Sibling Conflict
Now is a time when sibling conflicts that might lay dormant when children are busy with school and activities are probably cropping up.
Parents need to know when to intervene and when not to. Children need coaching in how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. However, it is not helpful to continually settle disagreements for children. Intervening might stop fighting temporarily, but it does not teach siblings how to resolve conflicts themselves. Give them the support, guidance and skills — and the opportunities to implement those skills.
Choose Consequences over Punishment
Parents are often unclear about the difference between consequences and punishment — and that’s one reason efforts to discipline children can be ineffective.
A consequence is the result or direct effect of an action. The goal for giving consequences is to teach a lesson that leads the child to make positive choices. It encourages self-examination, accepting responsibility for one’s actions, the ability to learn from mistakes, and the development of an inner voice of self-control. Consequences give your child the message that he is capable of taking responsibility for problems and can handle them.
Punishment is defined by Merriam-Webster as “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution.” It can cause resentment and rarely teaches a child what you want him to learn.
Finally, make sure to take care of yourself over the summer. Avoid parent burnout so that you can continue to parent your child in a healthy, effective and healing way. As the saying goes: You can’t pour from an empty cup.