Summer can be a magical time for families, full of long, sun-soaked days, swimming at the pool, and gentle memories. Kids and families may catch up on rest, and have more time to enjoy each other. Oftentimes, families go on vacations and have more time to relax.
However, after a few weeks, the novelty may wear off. Kids can get bored, the house will get messy, siblings may fight, and parents may wish for school to start again. All the summer camps that seemed so exciting in February may seem less appealing once it is hot or the bugs are biting. The neighbor friends that your child was looking forward to invite over to play may be gone on vacation, and your child may even report feeling lonely or like they don’t have anything to do.
Luckily, summer CAN be enjoyable, even if plans don’t work out the way we thought they would. Here are a few suggestions which may be helpful:
Try to keep to a reasonable sleep schedule
This is important – for you, for your child, and for your family. Even though days are longer, many parents still need to be up in the morning to go to work, to manage household responsibilities, or to attend appointments or meetings. When children stay up later, oftentimes so do parents. By short-changing yourself on sleep, you may be contributing to more struggles with fatigue and stress at home. If you are spending more time with your children, this is the time to take BETTER care of yourself than usual.
Your child also needs to keep to a healthy sleep schedule. Many children are in summer camps and activities, and still need to be up in the morning. They are also more active in the summer, and may need more rest to fuel their growing bodies.
If children don’t get the rest they need, they also will be more irritable, tired, and argumentative, which can make it more stressful on family relationships. Furthermore, it will be much harder to get back into the school schedule in August if your child is hours off his sleep schedule. By maintaining consistent and healthy bedtimes, your child will do much better with the back to school transition in 8-10 weeks.
Use a schedule with your child’s time at home
It doesn’t have to be a strict schedule, like children experience at school. But, it is important to have a general list of what your child will do each day. It reduces conflict, and even anxiety, when children have a general idea of what to expect each day. It is also instructional, helping your child practice time management, which is a particularly helpful skill as they get older. It is best if it is in writing so your child can see it. It may also be helpful to have a summer calendar posted somewhere, so your child can look forward to certain events, and know when they are coming.
Provide your child with chores or responsibilities each day
Make sure things like electronics and playdates occur AFTER the chores are done. For example, give your children a daily chore list in the summer. In the morning, talk through what chores are reasonable, and how to accomplish them. Have them write the responsibilities down themselves. Then, teach them how to check them off when they are finished. Include items such as, “practicing piano for 30 minutes,” as well as options like, “putting away all the shoes on the living room floor” on this list.
Next, praise them for a job well done when their list is completed. Finally, allow them (limited) time with electronics, screens, or time with friends afterwards. If chores are large (like laundry), we write down more specific tasks (pick up your dirty clothes from the bathroom floor, put clothes in the laundry hamper, put away the folded clothes from the basket on your bed, etc.).
Make a list of small, yet fun things that you and your child would like to do over the summer
Include things like playing catch in the park, fishing in the neighborhood pond, or going out for ice cream. Every day, if your child’s responsibilities are met, let them pick something from the list. Some people add creativity and intrigue to the list by writing the ideas on popsicle sticks or pieces of paper. (See picture below). It is a another way to learn the lesson that the best things in life are small things, often spent with the people we love.
With these simple tips, your summer may not be perfect. But, you will be more connected to your children, and you will likely enjoy yourselves more. It is never too late to try to improve things, add more fun, or use creativity to make life easier.