7 ideas to take the stress out of the second half of summer
August 1, 2019 | by sara beth wald
I’ve come to the conclusion that summer break really just applies to kids. Between running back and forth from day camps and summer sports practices, packing and unpacking for vacations, preparing endless meals and snacks, and arranging our children’s social lives, there never seems to be time to relax.
Combine all that with trying to arrange childcare for the hours the kids are usually in school, and many parents find themselves wishing their summer away. The next school year can’t start soon enough!
I am hardly the best person to give advice on this subject. I’ve been running around in circles since the last day of school. I thought I had it all worked out this spring. I enrolled my kids in every camp within our price range. I thought if they were busy enough, I’d have time to think straight.
What I didn’t fully consider is that while one child is at camp, the other is with me. On the rare occasion that they are both otherwise occupied, I’m scrambling to fit in grocery shopping, errands, housework, meal prep, and my own appointments.
Whether at camp or at play, kids (and their friends) still need to eat – OFTEN! – and the heat and constant activity exhausts them, which leads to whining, crying, and bickering.
It’s now over halfway through summer and I’ve finally wrapped my head around some solutions to the summer crazies:
1. Don’t overschedule
Camps, sports, and other structured activities are a great way to keep kids engaged in learning and socializing during the summer months. However, summer is also your kids’ opportunity to spend long days learning how to occupy their free time. Nothing fuels a child’s imagination quite like boredom! Give your kids whole days – weeks, even! – to entertain themselves. Set safe boundaries, provide some cardboard or water guns to fuel their imaginations, and set them free.
2. Keep snacks handy
Speaking from personal experience, a weary parent could spend an entire day just preparing food for summer kids. All that play and activity makes them continually hungry, and when boredom sets in, their first inclination is to eat! Invest in some healthy and convenient bulk snack options like granola bars and fruit leather and store them somewhere the kids can help themselves.
Use this time as an opportunity to teach kids about chores and helping each other. Older kids can help younger siblings put on shoes. Store paper towels or dishcloths within younger children’s reach and let them know you expect them to clean up their own minor spills. Let kids pack their own bags for trips as soon as they are old enough to understand what they need. Develop a chore list and schedule a time each day to complete it.
4. Turn off the tech
This one is tough! If your house is anything like mine, the temptation to allow the tablet and video games to “babysit” so I can fold laundry or get some computer work done in peace is very real! Nothing makes a modern child more bored than shutting off electronics.
Give yourself grace if this happens to you now and then. We’ve all been there! Then remind yourself that too much tech time turns kids into whining zombies (the worst kind!). Bedtimes and chores are harder to enforce, and they forget how to use their imaginations.
5. Make peace with boredom
Parents have a tendency to think that a bored child is an unhappy child. Nobody wants their children to be unhappy! The truth is that boredom is actually good for kids. It is the foundation for creativity. Think back to your own childhood… Chances are some of your happiest memories were born out of boredom.
6. Go outside!
I can still hear my grandma’s voice, when my brothers and I were getting too rambunctious in the basement, hollering down the stairs to, “Go outside!” Anyone who stayed in the house was sure to be assigned a job. So outside we went, all summer long. Prepare play spaces outside so that your kids can enjoy the outdoors safely. Sandboxes, swing sets, and playhouses are all great alternatives.
7. Find time for yourself
Whether you are a working parent or stay at home, finding alone time in the summer months is challenging. After weeks living on top of each other, I admit that there are times I feel like there isn’t a private corner in my house. All the shuttling my kids around gives me very little time to catch my breath. Enlist the help of grandparents, neighbors, or friends and give yourself a kid-free break each week. You deserve it, and the kids will appreciate a break from you, too!
Releasing Air: You Can’t Keep Them in a Bubble Forever
Parenting is a tough job – the most in-your-face, never-gonna-end job ever. And, frankly, it’s easier to keep our kiddos in the bubble. We can control the bubble. The bubble is safe – physically, and emotionally. But the bubble is sterile. It’s lifeless. It’s life in monotone.