By Darryl Sollerh & Leslie King
For some families, summers can arrive like songbirds on wings of relief and anticipation.
June, July, and August can positively glow with the promise of play
and relaxation for moms, dads and kids who have waited all year for
warmer days without homework to arrive, along with visits from grandma
and grandpa, friends and relatives.
But for all the restful, supportive days the summer months may offer
some families, for many others what can also arrive with the balmy
breezes are bouts of anxiety, disappointments, arguments and
patience-sapping endurance tests -- to say nothing of the disapproving,
uninvited scrutiny from relatives.
Ah, family life.
So how can parents be open to the best of what a summer can offer
from family get-togethers, while navigating the less-than-lovely moments
these visits can also bring with them?
For starters, being realistic about who your relatives are as people, and how they prefer to interact with your family, is key.
Do they like to jump into the thick of your home-life during their
visits, integrating themselves readily into your daily routines? Or do
they prefer a drop-in approach, in which they maintain a hotel room
nearby and simply come over for meals? Are they the kind who will gladly
step in to provide you a break? Or are they more like house-guests who
look to you to entertain them?
All judgments aside, a realistic understanding of who your visitors
are, as well as their preferences, is your best friend in managing your
own expectations and plans for their visit.
But even when mom and dad have made thoughtful arrangements to
accommodate and anticipate their relatives' preferences, life -- and
family -- reserve the right to surprise us. And that can lead to as many
unexpected joys as it can to unanticipated stresses.
Which brings us to plan B.
When you feel the room's temperature rising -- or, more importantly,
your own -- the better part of valor is to take five, take a walk, take a
deep breath, or find any other way you can to take some time for
In doing so, a parent can rightly create the space to not only calm
down, but to also remind themselves that family visits can easily
trigger old wounds, reenactments of outdated psychological patterns or
behaviors, ancient upsets, or unhealed losses.
How bittersweet it can be for a mom and dad to see their own mom and
dad lavishing love on a grandchildren in ways they would not, or could
not, offer their own child.
Yet since we all bring our proverbial baggage to the table, mom and
dad can, with a compassionate recognition of their own joys and sorrows,
better meet and promote the best potentials of summer visits through a
calmer awareness of everyone's limitations and imperfections.
In this way, despite all the tensions or potential land-mines that
await any family get-together, a parent can also be the safe and stable
glue that allows grandparents and their grand-kids, especially, to share
in the real joy of family.
That your child can share love and feel comfort with their grandma
and grandpa -- as well as with your family friends and relatives -- is a
precious gift and life-lesson you can make possible. And that's the
true warmth of any summer.
Until next time, keep dancing!
Darryl Sollerh is a writer, tutor and co-author of two parenting
Guides with Leslie King, including "STOP YELLING, START LISTENING -
Understanding Your Middle School Child: a Compassionate, Practical Guide
for Moms and Dads."
Leslie King, LCSW, has been the Crossroads' School counselor for
20 years while maintaining a private practice, recently co-authoring
"How to be the Loving, Wise Parent You want to Be...Even with Your
Teenager!" with Darryl Sollerh (TheDancingParent.com).
Copyright © 2011 by Santa Monica Mirror. All rights reserved.