Last week I hung out with parents and little ones at a nursery school picnic marking the end of the school year. Then, over the weekend, I passed clusters of teens milling around, looking for ways to celebrate the start of the season. I’ve also noticed college kids are showing up back home in Scarsdale to both catch up on sleep and start their summer jobs.
School’s out for many, and soon to be out for all!
Summer is a big change, for kids, for parents, and for the many grown-ups who dedicate their careers to school kids of all ages, from pre-school to university. Of all the transitions and holidays in a year’s time, this one is perhaps the biggest, for people and for communities, especially for small towns, like ours.
Graduation celebrations seem to sprout up now at almost every stage of development, not just high school and university. Balloons, speeches, and cake; it’s fun and festive, and important to everyone involved.
In addition to the graduation parties, I have another suggestion to try. This suggestion is for any parent, grandparent, or caring adult involved in a child’s life. That includes neighbors, friends, clergy persons, or even extended family that lives elsewhere. With video chat nowadays, we can be “with” someone even when outside of Scarsdale. You know what kids you have a special connection to.
If you’re one of those grownups, how about having what I call a “marker” conversation?
Marker conversations are all about noticing transitions, important changes or events in life. They are about recognizing times that we mark as significant, whether it is a positive time or a negative time or event. Both kinds leave a mark.
- They are about a change for a person, and focus on the person involved.
- They include talk about thoughts, feelings, dreams, hopes, struggles and accomplishments.
- These kinds of conversations can be casual, but are usually remembered.
- They can be spontaneous, but also deliberately planned.
- They are a form of reminiscing, but the focus isn’t remembering the details.
- They touch something deeper, that real place inside we often keep quiet or private.
- They are reflective and honest and woven together with memories.
- They can be short, but almost always bring us closer to a person.
- They can be with anyone, but in this case, I’m suggesting having one with a child, teen, or young adult you know, graduating or not.
This kind of conversation works best when you both are relaxed. When you’re not in a hurry to go somewhere or do something. They won’t work if either of you are also looking at, or wanting to look at a screen, no matter how small. They aren’t the time to lecture, discipline, or make a point. While marker conversations can be about many topics, now is a good time to try one out about summer transitions.
Whether you are a wall street executive, a police officer, a stay at home parent, or a store clerk; anyone can have a meaningful marker conversation. Be yourself and use your own words. Be fully present to the child/teen/young adult. Be together around the topic of the change. Talk to them in ways the youngster can understand, based on their age. Tune in to them. Listen well. Simply reflect together. Leave room for silence. Talk about the changes, thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams. Even a four year old finishing nursery school has these.
Listening and talking like this matters to kids, even if they are big kids. I think it matters a lot, even if the kids don’t say so. And it matters to the grownups involved too.
A recent article in the New York Times links talking deeply like this to being happier. And you know, it even matters to communities, makes them better places to live. I plan to have a marker conversation, or two, this week with my own child, who is graduating.
Marker conversations connect. They create meaning. They inspire.
Try one out this week!