The Worry Monster, created by Dr. Dan Peters of Summit Center
By this time of year, most students are easing into summer with plans that vary from family vacations to lazy days by the pool to special camps or other seasonal activities. Most kids enjoy the long, carefree days and break from the academic calendar. But the twice-exceptional child may see it very differently.
Part of my daily routine as a teacher is to check in with my students. This gives them a chance to reflect upon their lives and it provides me the opportunity to get a sense for their readiness to learn that day. Oftentimes I gain keen insight into what is going well for them or what is not. In the last few weeks of this past school year, I was surprised to hear very self-aware answers from my students after I asked if they were looking forward to summer. “I feel like I should be excited, but I am not really,” and “I’m feeling bittersweet” were just a couple of the likeminded responses. My introspective group of tweens reminded me that being twice-exceptional often comes with high levels of anxiety when routine is broken up from the norm—and summertime is seen that way for many of them.
We all know that adolescence is a tremendously difficult time for any child. This applies even more so to our twice-exceptional children who are searching to find their place in a world that already seems to be such an awkward fit. To them, it can appear at times like the world wrote a handbook for living but forgot to give them a copy.
While 2e children require room for freedom of thought and action, they also have a great need to know what to expect ahead of time. For that reason, the emerging transition to summer, with its exciting promise of unscheduled days and more unpredictability can be very anxiety producing. Not having routine can often create discomfort for children who are, by nature, often already intensely concerned that they aren’t doing things “right.” Paradoxically, the structure and known expectations that they often seek to escape are what actually provide them a sense of security.
Knowing this, co-create a plan for the summer with your 2e child. Just bringing them into the conversation can take a load off their mind. Talk about a routine that might work well during these months off and create a calendar together as loose or as firm as they need it to be. Set goals about what they would like to accomplish before the next school year and list the steps to accomplish them. Spend a few moments with them each morning or night to create a daily “to do” list. By providing them these small pieces of structure, you will be inevitably freeing them from undue stress and facilitating the enjoyment that summertime SHOULD bring.
P.S. My colleague Dr. Dan Peters published a book this past year called Make Your Worrier a Warrior about how parents can help their children battle the Worry Monster. Make sure to check out this article:
“Ten Tips for Parents and Kids to Tame the Worry Monster”
which was originally published in Huffington Post.