Summer Fun or Summer Slump?
Welcome July, with your warm firefly filled nights. With your tasty homemade treats and abounding family time spent under the stars. And of course, don’t forget all the anxiety.
Wait, what? Did I read that correctly? Anxiety, in July?
Most adults relish summertime as much as their children. As parents we finally get a well deserved break from nightly homework sessions around the dinner table. The continual carpool loop between extracurricular activities slows, ever so slightly and we all sigh in relief. However, as adults we often overlook the potential anxiety traps our children experience during the summer which lay hidden, well disguised as summer fun.
Loud family gatherings, noisy thunderstorms, and BOOMING firework displays can make late June and early July particularly stressful for young children. Preschool age children and toddlers become overstimulated easily. This anxiety can lead to tearful episodes and sleepless nights for parents and their stressed out kiddos.
Overstimulation has less of an effect on school age children but as they develop their experiences expand and new anxieties begin to crop up. Day camps, sleepaway camp, and summer programs can stir up anxious feelings in our 6-11 year olds. As they prepare to pack up and head out this age group can become particularly quarrelsome or over dramatic with family members as they struggle to make peace with anxiety surrounding their new experiences.
Teens and tweens are not immune to the anxiety of the season either. Their anxiety often comes from taking on new responsibilities like summer jobs or it stems from casting their mind toward future events. Most teens and tweens head into the new school year with anxiety surrounding their ever changing roles. Starting school in a new building, trying out for fall sports, auditioning for extracurricular activities, ACT/SAT prep, or taking on dual enrollment college level courses can all cause your teen or tween to kick out more than a few stress behaviors as the summer wanes on.
No matter what age of summertime anxiety you’re dealing with the solution is simple. It’s the 3 Words*.
Every adult, teen, tween, child, preschooler or toddler’s stress is rooted in an assault on their “3 Words.” (If you’re new to ColorWorks and don’t know what I’m talking about I explain it in a bit more details at the end of this post.) When one or more of our “3 Words” feel like they are under attack we often react with stress behaviors. And since all behavior is purposeful and designed to meet a need you can choose to view your child’s stress behavior as a desperate plea for help. Instead of becoming frustrated with their crying, grouchy attitude, procrastination, drama, or anger; try hearing these behaviors like this; “I am so nervous/fearful about ______ can you please show me how to handle this better? I have no idea what I am doing!”
Purposefully choosing to hear our child’s stress behavior as a plea for help allows us to reduce our own stress as a parent, releases our own frustration surrounding the situation, and allows us to step into the role of Coach which is what our child desperately needs in that moment.
Think of the 3 Words for each color type as your cheat sheet to reducing stress and anxiety levels for your child’s unique personality, or color, in any situation at any age!
Gold’s 3 Words: Structure, Consistency, and Expectations
Situations which are ‘out of the norm for your family’ or that you would classify as ‘out of your child’s comfort zone’ breaks both the structure and consistency Gold children depend on for peace. For example, the BOOM a firework produces happens at sporadic intervals and we only see these displays once a year. The inconsistent nature of firework displays can cause a young Gold child to feel powerless and out of control. They might overreact to the sounds or stubbornly refuse to watch the display, crying and carrying on until you are forced to leave. A true ‘first time experience’ such as going to sleepaway camp can be loaded with anxiety for expectation-loving Golds. When they are presented with an experience which they lack comparisons or references to draw comfort through consistency from the Gold child or teen will experience stress leading up to that event. And situations which offer too much mental lag time heading into the event can be stressful for older Gold teens and tweens. As they try their best to prepare for the unknown, they anxiously ponder the possibilities of the future event and can work themselves into ‘worst case scenario’ mentality while trying to guess at all the possible outcomes.
Orange’s 3 Words: Freedom, Rewards, and Boundaries
Situations which are ‘out of the norm’ typically delight Oranges as they love new situations because they push the norms’ of their set boundaries. However, the booming fireworks can induce anxiety in a young Orange child if they don’t like the sensation of being startled. Oranges only like being ‘out of control’ if they are in control of the experience (I know that sounds squirrely!). Oranges generally enjoy mayhem and chaos but they like the kind they create themselves, not the kind forced on them. These kiddos might overreact to the sounds and then purposefully make everyone around them so miserable with screaming or whining that you are forced to leave. Oranges handle first time experiences like a pro! But they are also the kind of kids who make it VERY CLEAR, once they are into the new experience, if they are not enjoying themselves, if they don’t have the freedom to do what they want to do, or if they see no rewards in the current situation to stay in it. I’m pretty sure every hilarious letter home from camp to, “Come pick me up now I’m not having fun!” was written by an Orange who thought summer camp was a free for all, no rules kind of experience. Teen and tween Oranges will display their anxiety over future events through procrastination of preparing for the event. Counter intuitive, maybe to the 3 other color types, but to the Orange this is simply out of sight, out of mind stress management.
Blue’s 3 Words: Connections, Communication, and Understanding
Situations which break your Blue child’s comfort zone can be nerve racking. They want so much to be surrounded by their family and have fun but if they are nervous about any element of the situation they can become tearful and clingy. And nothing says ‘fun’ like having a sticky, sweaty four year old leached onto you in 100 degree heat trembling and whimpering while you are trying to enjoy the 4th. Blues are the least likely group of kiddos to melt down and force you to leave, but it’s important to understand that they are struggling making positive connections to the noise, heat, activity, or people around them and may need some Coach Talk from you to know what you need from them in the moment. They may also need some understanding from you in the form of listening, or using Counselor Talk, to draw out from them what stress or disconnection they are feeling about their current situation. Calmly communicating with your Blues makes all the difference in times of stress. Blues will handle a ‘first time experience’ such as going to sleepaway camp with lowered anxiety if they know you are confident that everything will be ok. They will draw comfort through your words and calm demeanor. As Blue teens and tweens prepare for the unknown outcome of future events they will anxiously process it with friends and loved ones. Be prepared to talk about their concerns a lot. And be prepared to hear them talk about it with other people a lot. As they ponder the possible outcomes of future events they will seek understanding from almost everyone around them to get through the interim stress.
Green’s 3 Words: Information, Logic, and Experiences
Situations which seem confusing, illogical, or overstimulating will cause little Greens big stress. They want to understand the world, and the logic it naturally seems to contain as they ‘input’ information into their young brains at such an increased level compared to the other 3 color types that these kiddos are the most likely group to become overwhelmed and shut down on you. It’s best to help a Green avoid overstimulation before they are in shutdown mode, earplugs and headphones are good ideas for this group. Greens headed into a ‘first time experience’ such as going to sleepaway camp will pepper you with questions as a stress behavior. Give them guided and chaperone amounts of information through websites and brochures about the camp they will be attending to help settle their nerves. This will lower their stress as they experience the sensation of information gaps being filled in and questions being answered. As Green teens and tweens prepare for the unknown outcome of future events they will also anxiously process by asking questions, seeking information from others who they deem are experts on the subject and will be riddled with secret self doubt. Be prepared for sudden bursts of anger and frustration as their self doubt sneaks up on them! In the end though, Greens of all ages must experience the stress that comes with living life and see that they competently survive it to feel confident in future times of stress. If you try to rescue your Greens from experiencing the stress that is a logical part of life, you then deny them the awesome feelings of competency that comes from mowing through the stress. If you rescue you will not be helping them, you’ll be crippling them. This is hard especially for the Blue mom to do. To all parents of Greens, be supportive and encouraging in times of stress, not a rescuer robbing from your Green the chance to grow and succeed.
So there’s a snapshot look at how each color handle’s different stressful and anxiety ridden situations in the summer. Again as you see them acting out their stress behaviors remember there may be more going on under the surface then simply trying to annoy or frustrate you as their parent. I hope this has given you a little insight into what your kids may be experiencing this summer and some ways to help your kids get through it.
Comment and let us know what you think or share questions or experiences you’ve had with your kiddos and summer stress. 🙂
*The “3 Words” were created by Shannon Ward, ColorWorks original course creator. They represent an abbreviated set of “clues” in the form of single words that help spark a parent’s greater understanding of that child’s color’s traits, needs, values, and most effective parenting approach as taught in our ColorWorks for Parents courses. The first word in each set represents that color’s overarching need. Most of what upsets of person of that color, or personality type, is connected to a lack of that primary need being met. The second word in the set represents that color’s secondary, but still important value. The third word in each set brings to the parent’s mind a clue on how to parent and discipline a child or teen of that personality type or color. Each of these “3 Words” and their explanations are taught in depth in our ColorWorks for Parents courses. For more details about each color go to http://www.colorworksgroup.com/colors/