Dear Director: The Summer Fun Edition

Dear Director,

Summer is fast approaching. I am having such ambivalence about it. My two elementary school children and my two middle school ones will soon be under my feet 24-7. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my kids, but sometimes it just gets too much. Please advise.

Yours, Ambivalent

Dear Ambivalent,

I have three words for you: respite, respite respite!

So many of our children need continued structure and predictability even when they long to be out of that school-based structure and predictability. It allows them to relax, knowing what will happen, and when, and who will be along for the ride. For each child that may look different, but your options are wide open. Additionally, you don’t have to plan out EVERY MINUTE and make yourself crazy, but it does help to have some plans for some times, including time without your children or less of them, and time with them having fun.  Enjoying your children, and their joy in seeing and doing new things should be part of healing their brains from trauma, so let’s put some joy back into your life, and theirs.

Respite can mean many things to many people. The dictionary says it is “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.” But this is a pretty broad definition, if you ask me. It could be making arrangements for birth or adoptive relatives to take one child for one night, or one afternoon, or all four children for a weekend, or maybe each child to “Camp Grandma,” for a week at a time. It could mean coordinating with friends who live on a farm or in the woods to host you and the children to be in a different place and have a different experience for a few days. It could mean sending all four children to sleep away or day camp in various schedules, and leaving one or two at home for that week so you can do things with them that they really enjoy.

The first step would be to call SWAN and ask for a referral for assessment for Post Permanency services. During this assessment, you and your coordinator can develop a plan to meet your needs and your children’s need. This could include researching camps for children with special needs, or seeking scholarships to special programs or helping you pay for that summer camp to learn better soccer skills or put on a play or build London Bridge with Legos. Each of these is available with respite funding support if you plan now. We will also help you identify and pay people you know to help you care for the children over the summer, if that works best. If you need support from your group of relatives for a kid-free week for the parents, let us help coordinate and arrange for that time, and provide what each relative needs so you can go on respite as you deserve.

You will find as your calendar fills up that you don’t feel so overwhelmed because happy children and tired children are easier to parent day to day. We will be there with you, and will welcome you back, refreshed, when they all return to school in the fall.

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