Summer vacation. These two simple words can bring up a multitude of feelings in parents. On the one hand, the freedom from early mornings rushing out the door can feel like an enormous relief. On the other hand, all that unscheduled time can feel a bit daunting: What will we do with all that time? Many parents share this worry as summer approaches. Add in some of the following stresses – how to prevent summertime “learning loss,” how to pay for all those camps and what to do when your children are complaining of being bored – and those early mornings rushing out the door to school can actually start to look good.
Parents who attend my Simplicity Summer workshops come in with these same types of worries, but once we spend some time exploring ways to address the issues, they leave with a bounce in their step, ready to pack up their beach bags and dive in to summertime.
Below are some of the helpful tips that give them that bounce:
Just because you don’t have the school year schedule doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any schedule
A loose daily schedule that everyone can count on goes a long way toward peace of mind. It doesn’t need to be rigidly time-based (this is summertime after all), but everyone can know what to expect, e.g., every day after breakfast we’re going to take the dog on a long walk; after lunch, everyone is going to do something quiet by themselves for awhile.
Time spent outside in nature is good for everyone’s health, mood and general well-being. Lucky for us, we live in a state that has fairly ideal summertime weather, as well as innumerable trails, swimming holes and forest walks. Make hikes, bird walks, neighborhood strolls and swimming in fresh water a regular part of your summertime repertoire; set a goal, perhaps twice each week to go on an adventure. The whole family will come back from these outings happy, calm and nourished (and dirty!).
Do real work together
Doing work with your children is a win-win – good for you and good for them. What do I mean by “real work?” I mean things that need to get done around your house: home repairs, gardening, pet care, cooking, laundry. Contrary to many parents’ thoughts, these are not things that you need to get done while your children are napping or after bedtime. Doing real work (i.e., important, helpful, essential to the workings of the home) is something to get done with your children. Yes, it may go more slowly and be messier than doing it by yourself, but you are teaching your children lasting life skills. The bonus is that you get to do something just for you during naptime (read a book! call a friend for a chat!) instead of rushing around trying to get things done.
Let your children be bored
Yes, you read that correctly. It’s OK for your children to be bored, in fact, it’s good for them. Creativity (in the form of figuring out what to do) can only come from a void of things to do. By actually not overscheduling your kids, by leaving chunks of the day unplanned, you give them the gift of figuring out what to do when there is nothing to do. This often leads to great invented games, building projects and other imaginative play – all of which are great for your child’s brain development and general happiness. So, the next time your kids complain of being bored, don’t solve this problem for them by suggesting things to do. Instead, give yourself a private pat on the back and wait 10 minutes – they’ll figure something out.
Rather than the daunting prospect of three months without the schedule of school, by using these tips, summer can instead become a great opportunity for fun, family connection and helping your children develop skills that don’t get much practice during the school year.
Bring on summertime!
Lisa Weiner, MSN, is a certified Simplicity Parenting Counselor who teaches classes and workshops around Portland. To learn more about her work, or to sign up for a class, see HandmadeParenting.com.