You love your kids — but summer is hard. No shame; we’ve all been there. Summer is often draining for parents, but it should be fun, and it can be. Here are six strategies for summer sanity that will see the whole family having fun.
Implement A Sorta-Schedule
A “Sorta-Schedule” — a term coined by Jaqui Wilson, counselor and play therapist — is a detailed yet flexible plan of how your family will spend the summer. You don’t want to leave every day wide open (that will result in nothing but video games), but you don’t want to plan out every moment, either. Instead, lay out the general framework of how you want your day to go and then be prepared for it to fluctuate often.
On your “Sorta-Schedule,” you’ll want to include guidelines for meals, snacks, outside time, screen time, quiet time, out-of-the-house activities and bedtime. (We’ll dive into a few of these topics a little deeper in a minute.)
Have Daily Quiet Time
Implement quiet time each afternoon. Even if your kids are too old for naps, everyone — kids and parents alike — can benefit from a little downtime. Have a designated box of books, craft supplies, educational workbooks and other similar activities your kids can do for an hour or two each afternoon. You can use that time to get some chores done, or maybe relax and read a book yourself.
Screen time and chores are two of the most important areas where you need to discuss expectations up front. First up, screen time. Allow your kids to have a predetermined amount of time they can use for watching TV or playing with the iPad. Set a timer to keep everyone accountable, and make sure everyone knows when the timer goes off screens need to be put away. Also. consider having your kids earn their screen time as a reward for helping with tasks above and beyond their chores.
Next, set expectations for chores. Make a chart that lists the chore, who does it, when they do it, how often they do it, and any other special notes about how to perform the task (“Remember to use a different vacuum setting for the rugs”). Including all vital information and hanging the chart in a visible, high-traffic place will ensure nobody “forgets” to help out around the house.
Create A Summer Bucket List
Sit down with your kids and brainstorm a list of fun things you want to do throughout the summer (if you’re feeling ambitious, shoot for 100 items). These activities can range anywhere from making homemade popsicles to visiting a water park in another state. Come up with ideas that fit your family’s budget, needs, and interests.
Involve friends with this bucket list, too. Wilson says, for kids, that summer boredom often stems from “not enough social interaction with their peers that encourages interpersonal skills and communication.” In other words, she explains, play is often centered around a focus — like a game console — so children are participating in parallel play instead of actually playing with each other. Add items to your bucket list that require interplay.
Leave Lots of Free Time
“During the school year, a family’s schedule is often packed,” Wilson says, adding that children might be overwhelmed by all the choices available to them. Free time is a good thing for kids versus overscheduling, which can hurt kids in multiple ways. So don’t schedule every minute of summer. Some of the best memories are made during free time. After all, how will you be able to spontaneously go out for ice cream after dinner if you already have plans every night?
Recognize It Won’t Always Be Hectic
Here’s some good news: As your kids get older, the amount of activities you have to provide to entertain them during the summer will decrease.
“Help school-age children learn how to deal with boredom by breaking it down and providing some options,” Wilson says. “By middle school, start backing off, but provide some structure when met with failure. For high schoolers, let them figure it out once you taught the skills.”
Summers might feel endless now, but someday, your kids will be teenagers with cars, jobs, and friends. Then, they’ll spend the majority of the summer anywhere but at home. So although your main focus right now might be just trying to survive, take a step back and enjoy this summer, too.