As the days grow longer and warmer, our children begin to get more and more excited as they look forward to summer break! Who wouldn’t be excited about warm weather, fun actives, exciting trips and sleeping in? Some parents share their child’s enthusiasm but for other parents the thought of those long summer days without the distraction and schedule of school leaves them feeling a bit overwhelmed. Despite how much you might love your children and love spending time with them, parenting 24/7 is hard. It’s okay to think that, feel that and even say that out loud. Parenting is hard. See my tips below to make parenting over the summer more enjoyable and less stressful:
Maintain as much structure and routine as you can.
Kids (and adults) thrive in a structured environment. Just because it’s summer does not mean that your children get a free-for-all when it comes to rules and expectations (despite their arguments that they should). In order to enjoy the fun activities, trips, treats and adventures, it is going to be important that some form of routine and structure is in place. Your home does not have to be run like a military boot camp but some basic routines, rules, and expectations should be in place. In order to keep things simple – remember: food, sleep, shelter, and schedules.
● Strive to maintain your child’s nutrition by feeding a wide variety of wholesome, nutritious food in three meals and two snacks. A child that is hungry or had too many treats tends to be more cranky or ends up not feeling well. An occasional treat is much more of a treat when it happens once in a while.
● Your child’s sleep patterns are important to maintain over the summer months. Continue to work towards a nighttime and morning routine. These routines and times may look a little different in the summer and be a bit more relaxed but it is still valuable for your child to have a set bedtime. Nothing is more unruly (and unpleasant) than an over-tired young one.
● Make sure that each person in the home knows their responsibility for keeping up with their chores and responsibilities around the house. Each person living there should have a chore and an expectation to keep their area tidy, this way time is not spent cleaning all day but rather making memories. Also, it is unfair and unrealistic that all duties fall to one person or parent. Even the youngest children can participate in an age appropriate helping task.
● Schedules and routines are the lifeline of any home running smoothly. It is easy to let these go by the wayside without planned activities for the days. However, children and adults alike thrive with some form of structure to the day. This can be as simple as scheduled indoor and outdoor time. Or it can be learning time, play time, and chore time. Or you can have a structured day down to the hour, if you choose. The main thing is to find what works for your family and have some outline of how you will spend your summer days.
Let your kids be kids but also have some independence.
Children crave independence. It’s part of normal childhood development – kids want to make their won choices. It can be easy to step in and make choices for them but then they may become reliant on the parent to make the simplest of decisions. Summer break is a great time to begin allowing your child to practice more autonomy in multiple areas of their life. Some examples may be choosing: the clothes they wear, the food they eat (from a
menu), the activities they do that day or their chore of the week.
Once your child becomes a bit more mature, engage them in conversation about their choices for family vacations, dinner menus and their input into fair rules/consequences. Note, this might be a challenging area for parents who like to have more control over things. It make take a bit of getting used to but by putting some thought into it, you can likely find some areas you are comfortable allowing your child to begin to make their own choices. Sit down and make a list of ideas and take some time to think about which ones you are comfortable with.
Manage your expectations and the expectations of your children.
In the midst of having to keep up with the proverbial Jones’s summer plans do not forget the purpose of summer break. It is simply that; a break! A break from the busy school year so that children get the opportunity to be kids and have a little fun. It is a time for you to make memories as a family, weather that is around the dinner table or around the world. Remind yourself and your children that you do not have to go anywhere to have fun or make a memory. Simplify your expectations.
Plan activities that you know are within your abilities as a family and stick to
those. The memories that will stick with your children are the feelings that they experience: the excitement of exploring a new place or their own back yard, the anticipation of family vacation or a day out and knowing that they are surrounded by a loving family.
Here’s to you and your family have the best summer break ever!
What have you tried to reduce the stress of parenting over the summer?