Most parents with school-aged children wait for that first day of summer break with as much, if not more, anticipation as their children. We envision picnics, swimming, sleeping in, and days that are not filled with commitments that require feeding, packing, and loading into the car by a certain time frame that will never be met. This joyful bliss typically lasts about 24 hours, when parents realize the kids do not sleep in (at least those under 12 years anyway), and these kids need to be fed, entertained, and kept from accidentally setting the house on fire. All day long. Not exactly what you envisioned as your relaxing summer. While summers will never have the same meaning as they once did, there are some things you can do to help you and your offspring survive the summer and successfully make it to next September, and possibly have some enjoyable moments along the way.
1. DON’T THROW THE SCHEDULE OUT THE WINDOW
What? But schedules can be so oppressive! Be here at this time, and be appropriately dressed does not sound relaxing and enjoyable. Having an hour-by-hour account of your day written on your fridge chalk board is not what we’re talking about. What we’re getting at here is having some sort of a routine that is more or less followed on most days. Having somewhat regular wake up times, meal times, outside times, and social times can help younger ones feel more secure in knowing what to expect and just might prevent you from hearing the continuous loop of “I’m booooored.” It can also keep you from having an expectation of sitting on the couch all day watching Netflix when you know your 7 year old is simply not going to allow that. And if you have children that will still nap, respect the naptime. Treat it as your sanctuary, and keep it around the same time every day. If your children are past this point, well remember the good days. Though some research has shown that having a predictable “quiet time” after lunch can be restorative for humans of all ages. Even if your little angels won’t sleep, having a small period of time where they are expected to quietly (in theory) entertain themselves in their rooms can be useful for everyone in the home.
2. TRY TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE ONCE A DAY
It can be very tempting to leave everyone in their pj’s and pray that everyone will “just hang out.” If you have teenagers, this could actually be a possibility in your home. You are envied. If you have any children under the age 13, this is not likely your reality. Kids have lots of energy. Like an unfairly disproportionate amount of energy. You do not want to be alone with them, cooped up in a house when the 10 a.m. post-breakfast energy rush kicks in. They will become bored, and when kids are bored they are either whiny or mischievous, and neither of those are good things. Try to keep things interesting and new to engage them. Alternate between swimming, parks, splash pads, hikes, bike rides, or picnics. Austin boasts almost 300 days of sunshine, and kids like sunshine, capitalize on that. And on rainy or, more likely, oppressively hot days, try some indoor activities, like trampoline facilities, kid-friendly gyms, museums, or even lunch at a restaurant (if you dare). When kids are given an opportunity to explore and engage in novel surroundings, they are happy. It also wears them out a little and increases the likelihood that nap or quiet time will actually be a possibility. Everyone wins!
If you’re having some difficulty finding something to do, here’s a couple of useful links just for you:
3. MAKE FRIENDS AND HAVE PLAY DATES
Most humans are social creatures. Children are no exception. For the most part, they love to play with each other. While the parents of your kids friends may not be whom you would normally do happy hour with, they are probably somewhat bearable. And when your kids are with other kids, it may mean that they will play “Frozen” with each other, and you will get to spend a whole day not pretending to be a snowman. And if you are really, really lucky, your child will find a friend with parents almost as awesome as you, that are actually fun to be around. Then you have hit the jack pot. Never let these people out of your lives.
4. BE OPEN TO ORGANIZED ACTIVITIES
I know, I know. Summer is supposed to be a commitment free time. But hey, is it really impossible to make it to one or two organized activities at a set time every week? Probably not. And it merges all of the above-mentioned tips into one super tip. Your kids get out of the house and get socialized, and you incorporate it into your lovely routine. Spend some time with your mini-you and find out what interests them. Chances are, there is some sort of organized activity that will be focused on this interest. Whether this means a sport, a library story time group, or an art class, having an organized activity to look forward to every week can be very beneficial. Your child spends an hour or two doing something they enjoy, that you are not responsible for organizing, and they come home (usually) happy. Happy kids are much nicer to you than cranky kids.
5. BE MINDFUL WITH THE SUNSCREEN
Remember those 300 sunshine days mentioned earlier? It's highly likely that you will be out enjoying it for some longer periods of time throughout the summer. Sunscreen is important. Sun burnt kids are cranky kids, and ain’t nobody got time for that. But more importantly, this isn’t really just about sunscreen. It’s more about the benefit of being somewhat prepared. At this point in your parenting career, you understand the importance of toting around snacks, water bottles, extra hair ties, changes of clothes, and all those things that, if missing and needed, will bring upon the dreaded meltdown. Give yourself extra time to get all of this nonsense together so that you don’t forget the only item that ends up being needed that day. You will love yourself a little more for it.
Written by Andrea Maldonado, LCDC, LPC
About Our Blog
Here you will find articles contributed by members of our team. We hope to provide helpful information here to inspire mindful living and general wellness. The information provided here is not a substitue for professional mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need to speak to a professional regarding your mental health, please make an appointment.