First Things First: 10 tips for surviving summer break
The end of the school year is right around the corner. This time of year is filled with field trips, field days, school programs and parties. Then, it all comes to a close, and another school year is behind us. Bring on the summer!
It’s time for camps, vacations and activities. Kids love summer. On the other hand, parents may not always be the biggest fan. Schedules change, and routines shift. Summertime often involves a lot of calendar juggling and planning.
Summertime doesn’t have to stress you out, though. Here are some tips for surviving summer break.
— Put a calendar in your kitchen or living room that everyone can see and keep up with. If your summer looks like ours, there are lots of camps and activities to keep track of. The best way to make sure you’re all on the same page is to post a highly visible calendar. Get creative with colors for each family member. Just remember to make it simple enough that it doesn’t get overwhelming.
— Schedule a weekly family meeting. Summer schedules can change from week to week. A great practice is to schedule a weekly family meeting to discuss what’s coming up. Sunday evening could be an ideal time. Include the whole family, and get input from the kids.
— Adjust your school-year routines, but don’t throw them out. Kids need structure. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you should throw all the routines out the window. If you’re like us, you still have a work schedule for the summer. Bedtimes may look different, and morning routines may shift, but structure brings security for your kids. We push bedtime back during the summer, and the kids usually wake up a little later. Just remember that you’ll have to adjust back to school-year routines in a couple of months.
— Schedule downtime for you as a family. It’s tempting to stuff the calendar with camps and activities to keep the kids preoccupied. Make sure to schedule downtime and game nights for the family. Leave some time for the kids to be kids and entertain themselves.
— Give your kids space. Some kids need time to recharge (some parents, too). Set aside time for individual play or rest.
— Be flexible. Schedules are great, but also be flexible and spontaneous. Life happens, and plans change. That’s OK.
— Make a chore list. Kids are home more over the summer and have more free time. Make a list of all the chores around the house, and assign everyone tasks. Get creative, and post the list on the fridge or near the family calendar. You can even schedule out when chores need to be done. No matter your child’s age, there are age-appropriate chores for them.
— Clarify expectations regarding technology. Set ground rules in your house for screen use during the summer. We put timers on our kids’ tablets and gaming systems. There is a daily cutoff for technology. Also, consider requiring chores to be done before they can use the tech.
— Schedule a date night with your significant other. While working on that calendar, schedule a date night for you and your love. Intentionally make time for the two of you.
— Ditch the pressure. Don’t put pressure on yourself to make this the best summer ever. Your kids don’t need lots of activities and trips. They need you! It amazes me what my kids classify as the best days. It’s often just time spent together.
Make this summer a summer they’ll never forget — not because of trips or adventures, but because you enjoyed it as a family. Summers get more hectic as your kids get older. Take advantage of time with them when they’re young, and make the most of it. Have a great summer!
Mitchell Qualls is vice president of operations at family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email him at [email protected].