There it is again- that angst in my chest- 11 weeks with my kids home all day long. Then the guilt- why don’t I look more forward to this? Followed by the practical- what in the world are we going to do all day every day?
Here are 7 strategies to overcome the angst, the guilt, and prepare for the practical- creating a spectacular summer for all involved.
1. Create a co-op. I work during my kids’ school hours and when summer comes, the work doesn’t stop. Neither do the household chores, the doctor appointments, errands etc. Summer creates a unique juggling act, but guess what? It also does for your other mom friends. Get together with another friend or two and swap days where your kids have playdates together. Have her kids come over to play on Wednesday afternoons while your kids go to her house on Tuesdays. Your kids will look forward to it and you’ll alleviate your angst about when you’re going to get your work/chores/appointments taken care of.
2. Put your pennies away. It’s not realistic to send your kids to camp every week of summer, but with a little budgeting and planning, you can put away enough to put them in a special activity while school’s out. This gives them something to look forward to and helps break up the day. It also allows them to learn new skills and make new friends. When one of my children are occupied in their class or camp, it also allows them to have a break from one another. On top of that, it changes the dynamic of how I interact with my children when there’s one less around. So, decide if you need to put them in their activities at the same time, so you’re completely free or if you want to stagger them, allowing you to have more deliberate time with your other child(ren) while one is busy.
3. Stack the Activities. When your child chooses an art class, karate class or swim team for their new summer activity, stack upon this interest. Go to the library and check out some books or movies that tie in with the particular sport or hobby. Then you can set aside some quiet time each day for reading, helping them prepare to engage in that activity with some background knowledge- and giving you a little down time yourself.
4. Set Some Goals. Do your kids need to work on their math facts this summer? Getting better at reading? Do you need to be better about exercising or cooking healthy meals? Have each member of your family set a goal to work on and then slot the time of day that you are going to commit to it. Remind them that families are all on the same team helping each other. When family members are meeting the goals they have set, take time to celebrate!
5. Prepare A Schedule. This is where my angst mostly lies. I’m not a scheduled person and not so good when it comes to planning ahead, BUT when I take the time to do this, the benefits far outweigh the time constraints. I don’t mean having every second of your day planned out- but do make time to space out your activities. If my kids are home three weeks in a row all day long with no activities/playdates planned and then the following three weeks I have something planned all day everyday, it’s going to be a recipe for disaster. Create a co-op and space your activities out. Visibly write them on a calendar so your kids can see what’s coming up and you dodge the dreaded question, “What are we going to do today?”. Leave some room for spontaneity and surprises too, but for the sake of your sanity, start with some sort of a plan!
6. Be Realistic. Your kids are going to argue and complain. They’re kids. If we’re honest, we still do that much more than we’d like as adults. Don’t get overly frustrated by the phenomena of human nature, but choose to reframe their disagreements and discontent as an opportunity to exercise problem solving skills. When my kids argue over silly, petty things, they go to their rooms and take a break. Guess what? When they’re in there, you get to take a break too- and sometimes, it’s a much needed one.
6. Let Go of the Guilt. The truth is the real lessons of life happen in the messy. Creating a utopian summer isn’t realistic and frankly, not what your kids actually need. Kids need to learn to entertain themselves, problem solve, get creative, and defer to others. That’s life! But they’re not going to always do it well. Think about it- how would you like to have to entertain yourself for ten hours a day with no direction? We’d get bored pretty fast. Without relationships and responsibilities life gets pretty empty, so teaching your kids how to interact with others and allowing them to see and participate in the work that needs to get done is a good thing.
7. Sink Yourself Into The Season. Honestly, I like my “me” time. I enjoy my cup of coffee and a quiet house after the kids have gone to school. Maybe for you it’s your morning jog or time at the gym. But summer is short. And there’s not that many of them, so dive into it. Be present. Let some of the expectations you put on yourself go while they are home. The house will be messier, louder, and more chaotic. You’ll have pool hair more often. The workout routine might slip. It’s okay. When your kids feel that you are excited about being with them, it will greatly affect their attitudes. If you’re continually upset because you’re not “getting to do what you want to do” guess who else is going to be upset too?
Unlike the photos in my parenting magazines, our summer days are not always filled with bright smiling faces and laughter. However, with a little planning and preparation, coupled with a shift in my focus and attitude, summer can be a spectacular time in my home. We learn to set goals, work together, encourage each other, celebrate one another’s accomplishments, try new things, and have some fun along the way. If those things happen even in the midst of some screaming and door slamming, I’d say we had a pretty spectacular summer.
What are your ideas for making your summer spectacular?