It’s the last week of school here. Excitement’s in the air. School’s a joke at this point. The kids can’t seem to get to bed before 9 p.m., and we’re all ready to sleep in past 6:30! Behind the excitement, though, is the always-present issue for me:
What the heck are we going to DO for 3 months?! And, more importantly, how will I keep from losing my mind in the process?
Can you relate? Then read on. Here’s what we’ve found to make summer more fun and less overwhelming, even with a family of 6.
1. Have a goal for the family. Make it specific, measurable, reasonable, and time-bound. Read a certain number of books together (may I recommend the Chronicles of Narnia series? My kids LOVE those!) Or decide to visit one new park a week. Or learn how to cook Indian food together. Or visit local seniors in a retirement community each week. Make it official with a family meeting and write it down. Hang the goal on your fridge or wall as a reminder of your common interests as a family.
2. Make space for yours, mine and ours. Ask the family, “What do you need each day, each week, each month of vacation to have a great break?” You may need time to read your new book or have a walk. Hubby might want to finish a project or play soccer with friends. The kids will likely have dozens of ideas, anything from video games or baking to time at the mall or playing with friends. With pen and paper in hand, make a plan for how each person in the family will get to relax in their favorite ways. Of course, longer activities or scheduled events will mix and mingle in, so plan ahead for those and work for a balance of “yours, mine and ours.”
3. Plan ahead for balanced meals. There are plenty of seasonal fruits, veggies, and healthy meal options this time of year, so enjoy them! And be sure to keep everyone’s diet balanced with enough protein to keep the family well-fueled and the post-beach meltdowns to a minimum. Just as in the point above, our family sits down and plans for each person to have one of their favorite meals each week of the break. We have even designated a day of the week for each person.
4. Establish a rhythm in your schedule. Everyone does better with routine. I know that keeping sleep schedules consistent is a life-saver for my kids who have special needs. We shift the schedule so we can enjoy those late night cookouts and sleep-in summer mornings, but we plan for the sleeping-in to end at about the same time each day. We also keep a basic daily routine printed on the kitchen pantry, with daily responsibilities finishing by breakfast or bedtime and meals happening around the same time each day. There’s lots of flexibility between meals, but the consistent elements help the kids enjoy, rather than be in time-out for, all the spontaneous summer fun.
5. Take a daily break from the togetherness. Decide on a good time each day when everyone will do their own thing. If the family’s not used to that, start small (15 minutes the first day, adding 10 each day until it’s a full hour for kids older than 4 who don’t nap anymore). We play a calm CD that’s the length of the “quiet time” and my kids know it’s not time to get up and
argue play again until it ends. There really is such a thing as too much fun (especially for kids with introverted personalities or sensory/mood challenges), so part of our job during school breaks is to meter it out in such a way that it can stay fun as much as possible.
6. Realize that you’ll lose it at least once. We’re not perfect, so prepare a toolkit of gracious words, encouraging verses, and things that fill your emotional tank quickly. For me, that includes cards people have sent after talks I’ve given, favorite scriptures like Ephesians 3:20-21 and Psalm 62:5-8, and a list of my values written in the first person (eg “I listen before I get mad because I value patience” and “I look for the humor in tough moments because I value humor”). Put your toolkit someplace you can see or get to it easily these next few months, and decide to forgive yourself when the steam starts coming out your ears.
7. Enjoy the change of pace. Remember that someday, you’ll want to have been intentional about this vacation (even though right now, if you have little ones, you’re probably just hopping from nap to nap!) Don’t let it pass too quickly. Be present each day, even on the tough ones where everyone melts down. Ever since I got my two older daughters as foster kids I decided that no matter how bad a day it is, I will be present in it because it will never come again. It’s not an easy perspective to keep, but it has allowed for many wonderful memories in our family.
A friend and parent coach, Susan Heid has created not just 7 ways, but a WHOLE SUMMER OF IDEAS for fun, learning, and adventure with your kids. She’s giving away a FREE copy of her Summer Survival Calendar for my readers! Thanks, Susan!
Simply leave a comment on this post or at Moms Together, sharing something you DREAD or something you LOOK FORWARD TO this summer! Winners will be announced on Moms Together at 10 p.m. PST, June 7th.