Summer is a time to kick back, relax, and take it easy, right? Many families look forward to a summer of magic-filled days at the beach, oodles of free time for the kids to play, and memory-making family vacations.
For other families, the reality is that summer can be a challenging time—especially when both parents work outside the home or if the parent is single. Schools today often fulfill child care needs for such parents during the school year, and when schools let out for summer, parents have to figure out new arrangements for their children, which can be logistically demanding and costly.
Maria Sanders, a parenting coach from Montclair, New Jersey, said her clients express anxieties about summer, when it comes to their children. “While summer seems like a great time to let loose and relax, it is often very stressful for parents because of the unstructured time,” she said.
If you’re worried about the coming season, here are eight ideas to reduce anxiety and increase enjoyment for you and your family this summer.
Share Ideas and Expectations
Sanders recommends calling a family meeting where you can clarify your children’s interests and share expectations.
She said, “Before summer approaches, it is a good time for families to set up a family meeting to discuss their expectations for summertime. What is really important is for parents to listen to their children, to what their interests are.” Parents can then consider their options and develop a game plan.
Define Rules and Responsibilities
Sanders also recommends clarifying expectations for things like chores and summer reading. “Expectations about summer reading, chore time, TV, video games, and time with friends should be clear and have clear boundaries in place as well,” Sanders said.
She cautioned that this is often the source of battles between parents and children. Collaborating “is a great way for both kids and parents to come together to come up with a mutually acceptable plan,” Sanders said.
Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Can a neighborhood college student watch your kids for less than it costs to enroll in camp? Do you have relatives nearby who would love to spend more quality time with your kids? Reach out to your family and community and get the help you need.
When you’ve got a game plan in place that the whole family feels good about, your worries will subside.
Parents will find a variety of different options for summer camp, including day camps, drop-in camps, and even camps that specialize in different interests.
Enroll in the activities, fill out the camp forms, call on relatives and friends for help, and take the necessary steps to ensure you’ve got a solid plan everyone feels good about.
Aim for Quality Time
So, you’re working full-time and your children will be in camp or engaged in other activities during the day. Rather than feel guilty about not spending time with your kids, make the most of the time you are together.
When spending time with your kids this summer, stay off of your digital devices and give your attention to your children. Talk to them, engage in activities together, and be fully present. There’s nothing more your kids want from you than that.
Keep Summer Simple
The best parts of summer are the simplest things: an ice cream treat after dinner, a run through the sprinkler on the weekend, extended daylight to play outside each day.
Summer fun doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Stop comparing your family’s summer to what you’re seeing on social media or the ideal vision you have in your mind. Instead, do what you can with what you have.
Camp out in the backyard, pop popcorn and watch a movie at home together, make your own ice pops, read aloud to your kids (even if they’re older), go to the park and swing on the swings with your kids, break out the sidewalk chalk and draw with your kids, play a board game, or go for a walk.
There’s often a sense of pressure to sign up for every activity. After your childcare needs are met, be careful about over-scheduling your children in summer. Boredom is okay. Free time is glorious. Don’t worry that they’re going to forget their multiplication facts or how to read, and allow them to explore their interests and simply play.
Use Your Vacation Time
Even if you’re not going away on vacation, use any vacation time you have to be with your family this summer. A relaxing staycation can be just as much fun and rejuvenating as a week away. A break from schedules and rushing around in the middle of the summer may be just what everyone needs to call it a win.