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June 6, 2013

Staying Sane During Summer Break

Image: Flickr/swong95765

Image: Flickr/swong95765

Question: What is a six letter word that brings joy to teachers and strikes fear in the hearts of many parents?

Answer: Summer! While many parents, myself included, are excited about the lazy days of summer, they also understand that too much of a good thing can be, well, too much. The initial excitement about getting to sleep in and having the freedom to do “whatever” can quickly turn into “How am I going to keep these kids entertained all summer?” So while teachers rejoice, let’s look at a couple of strategies to calm our parental fears about summer.

  1. Have a little structure in your summer. It’s tempting to throw the schedule to the wind once summer vacation hits, but, as my 13 year old wisely pointed out, no structure at all leads to chaos. So our family instituted a “lightweight” structure for each weekday morning. Each child needs to accomplish five things before lunch time, all of which can be done within one hour or so. They include reading (about 15-20 minutes), writing (either in response to their writing or adding 5 items to our family gratitude journal), light chores (wiping down the bathroom counters, watering the plants, etc.), practicing their new skill (see below), and Bible reading. They have a chart to mark off their completion of each item, and while they protested at first, they know that these five things aren’t going to take up too much time.
  2. Limit screen time. Let me say this up front. This is NOT easy, and while we may get the initial pushback from our kids, the reward is far greater. The creativity required to entertain themselves IS the reward. In fact, yesterday I watched sibling rivalry melt away as two of my kids built forts with every couch cushion in the house.
  3. Learn a new skill. The school year is often too busy with homework and after school activities to devote much time to something like this. Maybe your child has been interested in the guitar or piano. The summer might be the perfect time to try it out.  How about teaching your elementary school aged child how to make cookies? Or maybe your high schooler needs to learn how to do laundry? My daughter, who is entering middle school this fall, will be learning to type this summer, and I plan on teaching all of my kids how to paint when I repaint our playroom. (I know…shameless child labor!)
  4. Create a family bucket list. Don’t forget to add in the fun! Have each member of your family come up with their own list and then enjoy sharing them. Be creative and make sure to include freebie ones, too! Here are a few to get you started:
    • Go fishing.
    • Make homemade ice cream.
    • Have a water balloon fight.
    • Play miniature golf.
    • Visit an amusement park.
    • Catch fireflies.
    • Go on a hike.
  5. Take time for yourself. Or, as we say at ScreamFree, put on your own oxygen mask first! Having your kids around all summer can quickly drain you, so make sure you are refilling your own tank. Take care of yourself by focusing on YOU. This could mean grabbing your favorite magazine and heading to the backyard hammock for 15 minutes. It might mean going on a walk by yourself or having a girls’/guys’ night out. Whatever it looks like, realize that you will be a much better mom or dad if you are refreshed.
  6. Nurture your marriage. Having the kids around ALL THE TIME can put a real strain on your marriage as well, so make sure you are scheduling in some couple time. If you can’t afford a babysitter, rent the kids a video and then retreat to the dining room for a nice dinner.

So with a little planning, a lot of flexibility, and a healthy dose of me-time, you might just utter the words you’ve always wanted to hear: This was the best summer ever!

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