All across the country schools are beginning to let out for summer vacation. While this brings joy to some, it also sparks fear and frustration in others. What am I going to do with my kids all day? How am I going to deal with their bickering and complaining? When will I have time to get MY stuff done?
I always enjoyed summer vacation with my children. A big part of that likely had to do with the fact that I worked in the school district, and it was my summer vacation as well. However, by summer’s end even *I* was ready to get back to school, so I understand where these weary parents are coming from.
Summer doesn’t have to be a constant struggle with your children. Here are some things I learned over the years of being home, and working in the school district that will help you keep your sanity and allow you and your children to have a more successful summer together.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule. It can be easy to fall into a cycle of “up late / sleep late”, especially without the pressure of having to get out the door to school in the morning. Besides, it’s summer vacation, isn’t that part of the experience? Well, yes and no. A regular sleep schedule benefits both you and your child. If you want to allow them the experience of “staying up late” because of summer vacation, don’t extend their bedtime more than an hour past their regular time. The same goes with their regular waking time. This will allow for an easier day, and for an easier transition back to normal sleep schedules once school gets ready to start.
- Keep a regular meal schedule. “They’ll eat when they’re hungry” is a phrase I often hear tossed around during weekends, vacations, and especially the summer. The thing is, kids will often play past the point of hunger and by the time you realize they are hungry, they are irritable, tired, and beyond the point of no return. Decide on regular meal times, and maybe even a morning or afternoon snack time, and try to stick to it. If you can’t keep it exactly, stay within a reasonable time around it. This not only keeps your kids fueled and happy, it provides some structure to their day. Speaking of…
- Maintain a daily schedule. Kids thrive on routine and structure, even if it isn’t always apparent to you. You don’t have to have a rigid schedule, like your kids would have in school, even a loose schedule will work. Decide that after breakfast will be chore time for an hour, and then maybe your kids have to play outside for an hour. Then maybe there will be reading time during a certain part of the day. Or whatever works for your family. But block out parts of the day to have set things, make a schedule, and then post is where your kids can see it. This also helps kids who are anxious about “what comes next” be able to keep a handle on their day.
- Plan activities. Maybe on Tuesday afternoon you are going to go the library. Or Wednesday mornings are going to be trips to the lake/pool/park. Build regular and recurring activities into your week that will give your kids something to look forward to. Likewise, plan special activities that you can put on your summer calendar that build excitement like a trip to visit relatives, or a camping trip, or the county fair.
- Let them be bored. Finally, post a sign in your house that says, “I’m bored = chores”. Kids need time to be bored, because it allows them to use their imaginations to do creative activities. They will write, or engage in creative play, or figure out something that will get them out of their slump. It’s not your job to keep your children entertained all summer. And, if they honestly can’t beat that slump and decide they are bored and chores beat all the alternatives, then let them help out. Chores build responsibility and they get to spend quality time with you.