Jessica Jefferson, LMFT
5 Ways to Survive the Summer with Kids
We are almost halfway through the summer, and I know many parents are struggling with keeping sane until school starts (me being one of them LOL).
For parents who are home for the summer, it can feel very overwhelming to figure out what to do with the kids every day… day in and day out. For working parents, finding something for their kids to do while working, feels nearly impossible. No matter your family's make-up, summertime can create a sense of anxiety and increase the likelihood of parental burnout.
While we love our kids to pieces, we don’t always enjoy the summertime. Finding ways to keep our kids entertained while trying to maintain our sanity can be a hard balance.
Here are a few ways to help you create a memorable summer and keep your mental stability intact.
Don’t over-commit: We tend to want better things for our kids than what we had growing up. We want to create better memories, better experiences, and overall, a better lifestyle. Problem is, that it creates this mentality that we must always be moving and progressing forward.
Our kids need structure, but they also need time to be kids and to do nothing. So, it’s best to commit to a small number of activities that you and your kids can enjoy but won’t create too much stress on your plate.
I know most parents like to structure different activities every day of the week, where they are required to travel, pack, plan, and pick up. While it feels like a good plan, it can become very overwhelming over time. It is best two reduce it down to 3 – 4 activities so you can have time to decompress, time to be flexible (if things need to change), and time for yourself.
Another reason why it is important to not overcommit is for your kids to learn how to entertain themselves. Granted with toddlers and babies, this concept is harder to achieve so GODSPEED TO YOU. However, for older kids, it is important for them to learn how to be self-reliant and independent for entertainment. We don’t want to create an expectation and dependency on you to be their only source of entertainment because that is hard to upkeep.
I feel like an old man on a stoop, but kids must learn how to adjust to boredom and allow their imagination to come through. It isn’t only beneficial for us (so we have time to relax) but also important for them as it helps with cognitive and emotional development. So, if you are dreading the “I’m bored” statement, try to find things that will help enhance their imagination without the need for you to be the source of entertainment.
PRO TIP: Pinterest is a GREAT resource to find cheap activities for these types of moments.
Schedule in time for yourself and your partner: Summer tends to be very focused on kids and family-oriented activities, however, you and your relationship still exist. If anything, this is one of the times where individual and couple time is needed to decompress and re-connect. So, if you are planning activities and trips for your family, make sure to also prioritize time for yourself and your partner.
Find your support system: Do you have a family? Friends? Other parents? Find a support system that you can go to if needed. Need a person to vent to? Go to your support system! Need a date-night babysitter? Go to your support system. Whatever your need is, don’t be afraid to seek them out if needed. You don’t have to do summertime alone!
Plus having other kids to play with, will make activities more enjoyable for your kids (not to mention having other adults interact with you).
Summertime can be fun, but not without responsibilities and structure: Our kids want a few months of relaxation and enjoyment, which is great. However, that doesn’t mean that their overall responsibilities (aka chores) go out the window. Especially if they are going to be home more frequently and therefore have more time to make messes. Allow them to help you around the house. Especially since this is the best time to create that type of structure.
If your child is in summer school or a summer program, responsibilities are especially important to keep them on track academically. Making sure that they have time to do homework is vital.
If you want to continue to enhance your kids' learning, but they aren’t in summer school, invest in workbooks for them to complete throughout the summer. Schedule a time during the day dedicated to schoolwork. However, schoolwork shouldn’t be an all-day activity as kids do need mental breaks, which can vary by age and grade.
Granted that sounds intense for kids, but it is important to insert rewards and fun!
Allow your children to choose a reward (within reason) for helping around the house and/or completing schoolwork. Whether that is choosing a movie to watch, a video game to play or potentially a dessert to enjoy later. When kids are allowed to choose their reward, they are often more motivated to complete their chores/schoolwork.
Create something to look forward to Having something to look forward to is a great way to create motivation during the summertime. Whether that is a trip before school starts, a fun project to do at home, or potentially a specific day of the week dedicated to a fun time.
And by “fun time” I mean a day where anything can happen. You can stay home watching movies all day, hang out by the pool (because it is so freaking hot) or have a family-friendly competition. Our family is personally prone to game nights where we enjoy Mario Party, Mario Kart, and Monopoly (which I only now realize all start with the letter “M” LOL).
Having something to look forward to also allows for a break between repetitive day-to-day activities.
Make sure to also create things for yourself to look forward to. It can be something as small as a quick trip to Starbucks or time to get a massage (without the kids).
It is also best to ask your kids for an activity (within reason) that they would like to do for the summer. If you have multiple kids, consider allowing each kid to choose a said activity that you would do with them on a 1 on 1 basis. That would allow each kid to look forward to dedicated time with you.
BONUS TIP: Give your family a few weeks to get ready for school: Creating structure takes time, so give yourself time to start implementing a routine before school starts.
I recommend starting a bedtime routine 2 weeks before school starts. It gives your kids time to get used to going to bed earlier, which helps them wind down not only physically but mentally as well. For elementary school kids, this would also be a great time to practice reading as a part of getting them ready to learn for the school time.
A week before school is a great time to start a morning routine. Granted, no matter how prepared you are, mornings are always hectic, but getting the smaller kinks into place ahead of time can potentially reduce irritation when school starts.
Summertime used to be a time we all enjoyed … back when we were kids. Now as parents, we realized how daunting it must have been for our parents and we want to do everything in our power to avoid burnout. Especially because a burnt-out parent is NOT a fun time parent!
With these tips, you can become a fun-time parent, while also maintaining your sanity. It will give you more space to protect your mental health, enjoy time with your kids and create memories this summer months.
Wishing you the best time with your family this summer!