Last week I counted on my Instagram feed no less than three friends who were in Paris at the time. I had a real moment of comparison: this person is in Paris while I’m sitting under fluorescent lights trying to avoid the Georgia summer heat.
Falling into a comparison trap is pretty easy when we have social media living on our phones but it seems especially easy in the summer.
Our friends are going on summer vacations that seem much more fun than ours.
Our friends have summer jobs that are more enticing.
Our friends are taking their kids on an amazing family trip (while our kids are lucky if they make it to the pool this week).
Comparison is that tiny little monster that sneaks up on us when we least expect it. Comparison comes to steal our joy, to steal our children’s joy, and to distract us from what God wants our eyes to be.
The Bible reminds us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” Romans 12:2 (ESV).
The Lord does not tell us to focus on what others are doing. A successful summer in the world’s eyes might be doing something fun every single day, or taking a giant vacation or being constantly entertained until it is time for school to start again.
What is God’s idea of a successful summer? How can we spend these next few months being “transformed by the renewal of [our minds]?”
Can we avoid falling into the summer comparison trap? Can we focus our eyes on being transformed through our relationship with Jesus Christ and not by conforming to a worldly idea of a successful summer? The Bible says “look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time…” Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV).
Summer is coming. For kids and teens this might be exciting - two months away from a classroom! For parents this might be terrifying - two months with kids at home all day! For some this might be anxiety provoking - how long will it be before I feel bored?
Having a good summer might require some planning! We have compiled a list of some free (or very inexpensive things) you can do in Athens that will make the summer feel a lot more fun.
1. Head to Your Local Library
Did you know your local library offers free events in the summer (and all year long!) for children and for teens? Check out what events your library is offering this summer. Events might range from kid’s storytime to teen stand up comedy. The library also does reading challenges for kids over the summer. If kids/teens read enough books there are prizes that they can get for completing the challenges! Upcoming events might include Lego Club, Beauty and the Beast Fairytale Ball and Preschool Story Time.
Oconee County Library
2. Bear Hollow Zoo & Memorial Park
Bear Hollow Zoo is a place for families to come and see Georgia wildlife. Admission is free and Bear Hollow Zoo is located next to Memorial Park where there is a playground and walking trail.
3. Sandy Creek Park
Sandy Creek Park is located in Athens on Lake Chapman and has a beach, disk golf course, dog parks, fishing, hiking, picnic areas and playgrounds. This is a great play to go swim, hike and spend some family time together. Admission is $2 per person.
4. Georgia Museum of Art
Go to the Georgia Museum of Art to visit the thirteen galleries that hold permanent collections as well as the exhibitions currently on view. Admission is free, though you will have to pay for parking at the PAC deck. Parking is free on Saturdays and Sundays. You can also park in surface lot E11 for free on Saturdays and Sundays and after 4:00 on weekdays.
5. State Botanical Garden of Georgia
The State Botanical Garden is a free garden conservatory that has walking paths, a greenhouse, and education programs for kids. Admission to the Gardens is free.
6. World of Wonder Park
The very cool World of Wonder Park has ten slides and a three-story slide tower. It also has a rock climbing wall, and lots of park bench swings for parents.
Summer is the perfect time to hang out by the pool, take a trip to visit family and - start your child or teenager in counseling. That’s right, summer might be the perfect time to begin counseling services for your son or daughter.
Schedule-wise, counseling in the summer might seem daunting. You might be trying to work around summer camps or football practice. But counseling in the school is even more daunting - especially when your therapist has only a certain amount of slots available after school and every other parent is trying to get those times. Scheduling with a counselor in the summer can actually be easier than it is in the school year.
Counseling works best when it starts before a problem does. Are you worried about your child’s transition into elementary, middle or high school? Do you already think that your child or teen is having anger problems and worry about how those will play out in August when school starts? Get ahead of problems by anticipating them and bringing your child or teen to counseling to learn tools to handle situations before they occur.
I always tell parents that summer can be the best time for a child or teen to experience emotional growth through counseling. It is the only time of year that their energy and attention is not taken up with the stress of school. During the summer, kids have extra energy to turn towards processing emotional issues. They are able to focus on learning and practicing new skills in a low risk environment.
Counselors can anticipate that the first or second week of school will be when parents begin calling and seeking services for their children. Some of the problems that show up during these first two weeks of school are surprises - parents can’t anticipate that their son/daughter might have someone in their class they really can’t get along with. However, there are problems that we can anticipate and as parents can get ahead of by starting counseling before school starts.
If you know your child or teen could benefit from working on learning new emotional skills to add to their toolbox don’t wait until August to call and make an appointment with a counselor. If you are planning on being in town this summer, it could be a perfect time to get a head-start on being emotionally healthy!
Sometimes, in a rare moment of clarity, I realize that I haven’t stopped moving for weeks.
Written by our counselors to help promote your help, hope, healing