Five Practical Tips to Make This The Best Summer Ever
There are as many emotional responses to that as there are parents that hear it! Maybe your body surges with a bit of trepidation or anxiety. Maybe your mind races with all the adventures awaiting. Maybe your heart swells with joy at the thought of having all your “peeps” home for time together. And just maybe you feel an overwhelming surge of all these emotions in waves! No matter what you feel, I thought I could help arm you for the best summer ever with a few practical tips and fresh perspectives!
How do you approach summer break? Take a couple minutes and think about how you’ve done it in the past. Do you feel eager and ready or a bit leery and weary? What worked well and what may need changed? Here are five helpful tips for the best summer ever!
For most summer breaks, I have entered the weeks ahead with excitement to have my kids home and have more time with them. I didn’t think much about it, as that was just the way I was wired. Then one day, I was standing at church and was visiting with a lady about the upcoming summer break. “Oh, yeah, you’re one of THOSE moms that LOVES summer and having your kids home.” I knew from her tone of voice that it was not intended as a compliment. I felt kind of bad, as though maybe I was odd or shouldn’t enjoy that or something. I didn’t quite know how to respond.
Then a couple years later, I was struggling through a horrible depression. Summer break was approaching. I could feel my heart race every time I thought about the change of routine, the amount of energy that would be needed, and the terrible feeling of not being enough fun or excitement! I felt horribly guilty about that, which added a whole new level of emotion on top of what was already quite depleted and weary!
So there’s no judgement here for where you fall. I have been on both ends of the spectrum! But I think it is important right from the start to acknowledge where you might fall so that you can do some effective self-care! (If you need some ideas for self-care, check out this list of self-care ideas!)
Summer break does require a little more from us as parents! It can be hard to give more when we don’t have much to give. I encourage you to shed any guilt and accept how you enter your summer. But then, let’s see if we can’t get some fresh perspectives to help make this the best summer you’ve ever had, and try some new things that can help you embrace summer break with a new-found enthusiasm!
Adjust your expectations.
Sometimes our overwhelm with summer begins when we feel the pressure to entertain our kids or do numerous activities that may be expensive or time consuming. We wonder how we can make it all happen, fearing a lack of time, energy, finances, or all three!
Many years ago, we started a little tradition that has really helped me in this area. We make a summer fun list. Each child lists ten things they would like to do during summer break. We keep each child’s list on one master list. I was incredibly surprised when we started making lists that the things the kids were listing were actually far less complicated, expensive, or difficult to accomplish than I would have imagined. They were putting things like eat breakfast at McDonalds, jump on the tramp with Mom, Play catch with Dad, have a family basketball game, make cotton ball sheep (a simple craft with glue and cotton balls), go swimming, have a play date, do a sleep over, and other similar activities. It was eye opening! The things that mattered most to them were far more doable than I imagined!I realized MY idea of “making the kids’ summer the best” may not have matched THEIR idea! And quite honestly, THEIR list seemed much more attainable! Click To Tweet
Adopt a summer schedule.
Now as a personality trainer, I know I could lose half of you here! But stick with me on this!! I know some of you love and live by the schedule and you will embrace this concept with a quick thumbs up! But others of you feel intimidated and “boxed in” by even the simple mention of one. Let me tell you right off the bat, that I fall in the second camp! But I have discovered the importance of a summer schedule for a few reasons! Summer schedules do the following:
- Provide a simple plan to have the family on a similar page
- Establish a basic level of expectations
- Supply the structure that some children need in order to function better
- Give us a plan to avoid feeling overwhelmed or distressed
- Help parent/child refocus when we get off course
Now this can be a very loose schedule or more specific and detailed if that’s what works best for you. And the reality is, you can always make adjustments! Be as flexible as you or your family needs you to be. We have a schedule that we use during the summer. I will share that for you to use or alter as you’d like. Click here to download it now. Does it mean that we can’t deviate from that…absolutely not!Your personality may need the ability to kind of go with the flow, but it is important to realize that some kids function best with some routine and structure! Click To Tweet
This schedule helps our family operate with some sense of order during the summer. And since we have some kids that function best with routine and structure, it is a lifesaver! Remember, our kids function in the school year with a very set schedule. To all of a sudden be without any structure at all can increase behaviors that we might not see otherwise.We don’t need to be as established or set as a school schedule, but think of a schedule as a safety net for your child, an idea of what to anticipate or expect within a day! Click To Tweet
Assist your child in finding things to do.
Some children, especially those who are more introverted, tend to find quiet things to do and don’t need a lot of help with getting involved in an activity. But other children struggle a little more with ways to keep themselves busy or active or just engaged in something constructive! As parents, we are often annoyed when our kids talk about being bored or having nothing to do. I realized that this was an area we needed to address several years ago! We had a couple kids that tended to need ideas or they were constantly struggling with getting bored or stirring some trouble. So I came up with a list of things they may enjoy learning or doing. Click here for a list of fun things to learn and do. At any point, if they have trouble coming up with their own idea, I can direct them back to the list. I will include our list as a resource you can use, or you can design your own list.
Here are some key things this list provides:
- List of things already deemed appropriate or doable (cross off those you don’t want as options or make your own approved list)
- Options for you if you need to give choices to those who can’t decide
- Springboard to help kids come up with even more ideas and creativity
- Numerous engaging activities that can be flexible in the complexity or simplicity
You may even use this list to motivate your child to engage in non-electronic play time to earn that desired electronic time. I have made some agreements that a specified number of finished activities or specific amount of time spent on doing list items can earn electronic time.
I have also found it helpful to have some theme ideas for each week of summer. Yes, this is another idea that might make some of you cringe! I understand! But stick with me as I explain. A theme can be as simple or as involved as you choose. You can alter it or change it as you choose. You can put some time into planning it or use it as a simple suggestion during the week if you need ideas!
This is what I find a theme helpful for:
- Frame of reference for something to learn about
- Topics for books to look for at the library
- Ideas of projects, crafts, or other items to create
- Idea generator for kids as they pretend or play
- Something that builds excitement each week
Truly, this theme may be a simple springboard for you in the course of the week. Or you can use it as something that structures a series of activities during the week. You can make this theme as simple or as involved as what you desire. And as always, you can alter it for the needs of your child or family! Can you tell, I am big on flexibility!! ? I will include an empty template for you to plan your own topics or themes as well as the structured template that I have used. Feel free to use either of them for your own use! Here is an empty template for you to make your own summer calendar; click now to download.
Some examples of fun themes: space, farm, transportation, cooking, spy or special agent, zoo, jungle, under the sea, careers, colors, shapes, all about me, family, pets, sports, circus, Bible heroes, numbers, community workers, travel, specific countries, specific states, and so many more!! Are you getting some fun ideas running through your head?! ?
Accentuate the positive.
This one might be the most important one of all. We spend a great deal of time with our kids, especially in the summer.As parents, we help set the tone in the home. Our attitudes, actions, and reactions set up a framework for what we desire. Click To Tweet
Do we model positive interactions? Do we show them respect? Do we speak with a tone of voice we would want them to use? Do we see the positive or are we focused on the negative?
These are all important things to consider as we establish the atmosphere of our home and family. Of course these matter all year round, but summer can be the challenge as we spend our most concentrated time together.
So whether you are dealing with sibling issues, chores, play time…or anything else…are you looking for what is going well and pointing that out when it happens? Often times, we are quiet when things are going smoothly but then speak up when there are issues. Changing our perspective can change the whole situation. Commenting on the positive, noting the good attitudes, praising a job well done, or just appreciating when things are going smoothly and peacefully can help increase those moments in your home, sometimes exponentially! It can be easy to think, Well I expect those things to happen, so I don’t want to make a big deal of them.
Ok, fair enough. But how would you feel if when you sat down to eat, everyone just ate the food without comment or appreciation. Wouldn’t it feel better to you if you heard a simple, “Thank you!” or “This is really good!” Well, kids are similar in that way! Let’s purpose to have eyes for the positive!
I also encourage you this summer to spend some special one on one time with your child. You don’t have to be doing something big and grand. Just spend time with them. Figure out what their lives are really like. Listen to them share their heart. Find out what their favorite things are! Stretch and grow as you learn more about them! And ENJOY!!! You only get about 18 summers with your child, and I don’t know how many you’ve used already, but they go fast!!! Enjoy each moment. Don’t expect perfection, and realize that there will be some less than ideal time in your summer but make the most of every opportunity that you can!!
Let’s head into this summer with some practical tools in hand and some new perspectives in mind. We can do this!! Let’s make this the best summer ever!!
Let’s do this!