Summer Fun With Family?

Monday, 13 May 2013, 11:46:00 AM

Special To The Mirror

Being realistic about who your relatives are as people, and how they prefer to interact with your family, is key.
Being realistic about who your relatives are as people, and how they prefer to interact with your family, is key.

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 (

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