7 Strategies for Summer Sanity
Summer is upon us once again with its longer days and warmer weather. Yet for we parents of school-aged children, summer break can be anything but relaxing. I admit, my past few summer breaks have started with a mental breakdown on my part. But this year is different. I have looked back, taken notes, and learned from my mistakes; with only four days of school left, my summer sanity plan is firmly in place. So, allow me to share my 7 strategies for summer sanity in hopes it will bring a little sanity your way this summer too!
1) Evaluate & adjust expectations. This is a biggie. As I’ve written before, “All frustration comes from expectations” (Dr. John Lund); expecting your schedule to remain the same in the summer is simply not possible and your sanity will pay the price if you don’t make some changes. For example, I’ve learned that I need to cut back on my own “projects” during the summer. The less I expect to get done, the less interrupted and frustrated I feel. Instead, I now try to read, relax, and play a little more in the summer, reminding myself that, even though I’m not getting much of my “to do list” done, I am doing some very important things (like strengthening my relationships and resting up for the fall). Expecting a little less in the summer can bring a whole lot more peace of mind. (For tips on altering expectations, read this).
2) Set up summer rules. What are your policies for summer sleepovers, playdates, chauffeur services, and chores? Call a family meeting, discuss, and write them down; then, post them in plain sight. Having written “rules” takes the guess work out of summer days, providing structure and helping children (and parents) know what to expect. One of our rules involves “Summer Kitchen Hours”. These hours are posted next to the other rules, telling the kids when the kitchen is “open” and when it is not. This helps prevent constant grazing and entices my hungry teens out of bed a little earlier, but mostly it helps me feel like I’m not constantly cooking and cleaning. What policies might help your summer run a little more smoothly?
3) Don’t over- or under- schedule. While it certainly helps to have some scheduled activities each week, resist the temptation to sign up for too many. Let’s face it—we live in an overscheduled world, and overscheduling wears parents and kids out. Instead, let summer be a time to slow down from the hustle and bustle of the school year. Planning one activity a day is plenty; and it’s ok to have days with nothing planned at all. It’s actually good for kids to have “nothing to do” sometimes—it allows them to hear their own thoughts and invokes creativity; it also helps them appreciate all they get to do at other times. When my kids start in with “I’m bored,” I tell them, “Great! I’m happy you’re bored—it’s good for you! Go sit and be bored for a while!” This gets plenty of eye-rolling, of course, but usually does the trick. (If they continue complaining, I say, “Oh, good! I need someone to help me get this work done”–they sure run away quickly after that one!). So, be careful with your scheduling–keeping kids (and you) entertained but not drained is a fine line to walk!
4) Do activities that you enjoy. Hiking? Reading? Drawing? Gardening?—whatever you love, look for opportunities to share it with your children; it’s a great way to teach them about the things you love. I love travelling, and now that I no longer have babies in tow taking my kids on trips is something I adore. (The photo to the right, is from when I decided [the week before] to take the fam to Utah. Once there, I took all the kids to Sundance for the day, to hike, bike, ride the lifts, and play frisbee [while my husband played golf]!) I also love music, so writing songs and playing instruments together is another great activity for us. The point is to find what you love and do it—you’ll be so much more engaged in what you’re doing, and your kids will be so much the better for it!
5) Set up some summer help. To avoid breaking down you need some breaks, and summer camps, babysitters, family, or friends can be a big help. You might set up a childcare co-op and swap “free time” with a friend; you might enlist grandparents to take the kids for a while; or, you might ask your partner or spouse to take over for a night or day each week. Whatever your situation, look for opportunities to get some help and then take them! Your sanity will thank you for it, I guarantee.
6) Create daily quiet time. Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent, a work-at-home parent, a work-at work parent (oh, let’s face it—we’re all working parents!), you need some time and space that is just for you. Being “on” all the time is a sure way to burn out. To prevent burn out, set up daily “quiet time”. In our home we have 1 hour of “quiet time” each afternoon. I help the little ones settle down with books, a movie, or coloring, put a sign on my door (“Mom’s Quiet Time—Please Do Not Enter”) and hit my bed for reading, a nap, and usually some dark chocolate. The older kids entertain themselves and they all know not to interrupt or else “mean mom” might make an appearance. It’s good for everyone to have a break from activities and from each other. What can you do to establish some quiet time each day?
7) Be flexible. All this being said, summer really is a test of flexibility. Just because you have a summer “plan” doesn’t mean it won’t change–it will. Just count on it. Remembering strategy #1, if you can expect things to change, you will handle those changes much more smoothly. Just roll with it—that’s what summer is all about. (For more on flexibility, read here).
So, here’s to the summer of sanity! My hope is that, by using these 7 strategies, your summer will not only be more a little more sane, but perhaps even a little (or a lot) more satisfying too!
What are your summer survival tips? What gets you frustrated? What have you found to make things easier? Help us all out by leaving a comment below!
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