Have you ever noticed a week or so into the summer, after you’ve finally gotten a break the schedule and from the end of the school year activities, you realize there’s a new challenge and perhaps pressure … how to make the summer an enjoyable one?
As a working mom of four, I’m ready for summer. I’m craving more time outside, a more flexible schedule, and time with my girls. However, new stress is looming: balancing work, less time sans kids, getting everything done to keep the home running smoothly and get in some fun with the family.
For the past month in the therapy hour, many moms have been talking about this: needing the break from the hectic pace of the school year, wanting to be intentional about the summer, and feeling overwhelmed with the how to keep kids entertained, and get everything done.
Here are seven things to consider when planning your summer:
1. Know Yourself & Your Family. There’s no one right way to do summer. I have a practice every summer where I sit down and reflect on some goals, (personal as well as family goals) thinking about how to I’d like the summer to go. I think about the activities and outings I want to do with my girls, balancing work and five schedules. I also ask my girls to share some ideas on what they’d like to do. No two summers are the same, and that’s ok! As families grow and change, kids get older and gain more independence, summers can look different. I was once able to take my four daughters as a group, and now, with teenagers, a tween and a nine-year-old, finding activities everyone enjoys can be a challenge! Add to that, our family is shifting the girls want more friend time, and the twins have summer jobs and drive. As you think about how to structure the summer, be thoughtful about what you need and what your family needs. Set some goals, even small ones, to anchor your summer and be flexible and responsive to the ‘have to do’s’ and the ‘want to do’s.’
2. Nothing is Perfect. As moms, we get so many messages and pressures on ‘the right way’ to almost anything. When it comes to the summer, don’t put pressure on yourself to make it a perfect summer; nothing is perfect. I often see this belief with moms, to make the summer perfect and magical for their children. While there may be ‘perfect’ moments, nothing is perfect.
3. Create Boredom. During the summer, structure is great, but don’t overdo it. So many of us live in a world of constant doing and productivity that we’ve lost the ability to cope with boredom. Children thrive with structure and routine. However, being overly structured can be problematic. When we structure every minute of the day, shuttling our kids from activity to activity, we miss out on teaching them a valuable life skill: feeling bored. Do you remember your summers? Was your mom scheduling every minute of your day? Likely not. Some of my best summer memories include exploring in the backyard, biking with friends, long days at the pool, and endless reading. When we give opportunities for our children to be bored, they have a chance to reflect, be creative, and find self-directed activities. And while that can be hard to step back and allow boredom, this skill is an important one for kids ( and adults) to navigate.
4. Limit Electronics (for You and the Kids). Did you know that research has shown, kids chose electronics when they are bored and not sure of another activity to do? While it can be tempting to hand over a screen to get some things done, or when your child is bored, make it a goal to limit the amount of screen time your child has during the summer. Offer alternative activities and encourage, child, to find activities to do other than electronics when they feel bored. Here is an excellent resource to check out from the American Academy of Pediatrics about recommended guidelines of screen time for children media use by going here: Media Use and Children American Academy of Pediatrics.
5. Teach Life Skills to Your Children. One of the challenges in the summer is how to get everything done with kids in tow. From household chores, errands, and appointments, it can be tough trying to keep up with everything. In my work supporting adolescents, I’ve seen a trend in the past ten years, teenagers who do not have practical life skills. I see this problem with teenagers who are on the cusp of independent living heading to college, many don’t know how to write a check, make a bank deposit, balance and plan a budget, cook a meal, or do laundry. The work I do with teens and parents is to practice independence. Start now, whatever age your child is at, taking into consideration age-appropriate developmental milestones. And teach your children life skills. During the summer, there’s a lot to do to keep a home running. Don’t fall into the trap that you should solely do this work. Instead, enlist your sons and daughters to help with tasks and chores for example: unload the dishwasher, taking out the trash, recycling, vacuuming, cleaning a bathroom, making a sandwich, following a recipe, wash, dry and fold laundry.
6. Make a Family Bucket List of Activities. Have you heard the saying, ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish?’ I love this saying so much! Awesome summers start with some perspective and planning. Practically speaking, take the pressure off yourself to make the summer everything to everyone. Instead, have a family meeting, ask everyone to share ideas and thoughts about how to spend the summer. Keep in mind a balance of fun activities, practical and affordable excursions, and creative fun. And when you hear the phrase, ‘I’m bored’ or ‘I don’t know what to do,’ you can look to your bucket list of ideas ( that everyone has contributed to) and find some inspiration.
7. Keep Perspective. There is no one right way to spend the summer, and there is no one perfect summer. Instead, keep the perspective that you’re doing your best, you’re children are doing their best, and at the end of the summer isn’t that what really matters? Here’s to a great summer and the reality, it goes pretty fast!
© Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2019