The end of the school year is the moment that children across the country have been waiting on for months. The parents, however, often have slightly different feelings about the kids’ release from their school schedules. While this time offers ample time for family bonding and fun, the challenge of balancing the children’s needs and personal needs becomes more acute than ever for parents everywhere.
Before you’re able to start counting down to the first day of school again, you have a couple months of summer to survive first. By using these tips this summer, you can keep your head on straight and perhaps even have a little summer fun yourself.
Maintain a schedule and make plans
Just because the kids aren’t following their school year schedule doesn’t mean summer is an uncontrollable free-for-all. Most children do better with set structures and routines. One out of seven U.S. children between the ages of two and eight have been diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Children with conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders especially thrive with predictable patterns for the day.
Mimic the typical school schedules during the summer by giving your kids a routine on which they can rely. It can be tempting to let your kids go to bed later, sleep in, and eat whenever they want, but you should instead stick to the same bedtimes and meal times that were in place during the school year. Schedule activities as often as possible and make sure the kids are aware of these plans by putting them on a physical or digital calendar everyone can see. Activities such as going to grandma’s house for dinner once a week or to the pool every day can help give kids something to look forward to and a center of gravity for the rest of their day.
Plan plenty of outdoor time
The combination of home and a set schedule can give children a safe cocoon for the summer, but no child should spend all day in front of a screen. If you’re thinking about the vacations you want to take with your family this summer, consider a good old-fashioned camping trip. With 747 million acres of forest land in the United States, there are plenty of places for you to set up a tent and start a campfire. Opting for a camping trip over a vacation to a popular tourist destination is also a budget-friendly way of giving the family a fun weekend getaway.
Whether you go camping or you take a day trip to a nearby hiking trail, remember to teach the kids the basics of staying safe outdoors. As at least 85% of people are allergic to poison ivy, take the time to show your kids what the plant looks like before you get outside. They’ll be able to avoid that uncomfortable rash and they’ll learn something new. Be sure to teach them other important lessons as well, such as how to respect wildlife, to always wear sunscreen, and to stay with a buddy at all times.
Don’t stop the learning
Three months is a long time in the life of a child. When kids aren’t intellectually engaged for this amount of time, they can easily fall out of the good learning habits they form during the year. The younger a child is, the more important constant stimulation is. Children naturally acquire language skills for the first eight years of their life. This makes even simple activities like songs and games essential for them to continuously build the communication skills they need.
Make sure your kids keep learning during the summer by creating lessons yourself, setting aside dedicated reading time, or enrolling them in summer camps. Many camps offer a wide range of activities that keep kids engaged physically, mentally, and socially. Even going to one seemingly geared towards physical skills can give them tools in many other areas. Soccer, for instance, involves 11 players on each team and can teach children the value of teamwork. Do some research to find the camp that best suits your child and they’ll be able to continue developing skills even during their supposed summer downtime.
Mommy (or daddy) me-time
This final tip may be focused on you as a parent, but it will ultimately benefit the entire family. Be sure to schedule in time for activities you enjoy with just as much dedication as you schedule your children’s activities. Checking for water damage doesn’t count. Even though you’re worried about mold because you know it only takes 48 hours to set in, you need some REAL you time. Call up an acupuncturist for a relaxing session to help you forget your worries. These sessions usually only take between 45 and 60 minutes, so you can easily slip it in while the kids are at camp or with their grandparents for the day. If needles aren’t your thing, try out other self-care activities such as exercise, a massage, or simply sitting down for some quiet time with a good book. And if you don’t have a ton of time, consider that a simple laser hair removal session can take as little as 10 minutes.
Remember to have some nighttime fun as well. Schedule date nights with your partner so that you two can reconnect without the kids around. Don’t compromise on finding a sitter so that you are guaranteed this adult-only time. If you don’t have a partner, call up some friends to go out for drinks or take yourself to the movies. Whatever you do, just be sure to do it.
The summer months can seem like an intimidating void of unscheduled time for parents with kids who love being active. With these tips, that time doesn’t have to be scary. Instead, view it as an opportunity to give your kids the activities they don’t have during the school year. No matter what you do this summer, your kids are sure to remember the love and attention you gave them.