For parents, there are two words that can make even the bravest twinge- summer break. While the first week seems like a vacation with sleeping in and lounging around all day, the other two dreaded words will make an appearance shortly – “I’m bored!” So how does a parent stay sane during this time when the kids are home all day and begging to be entertained?
- Keep a little of the structure in the summer days. It is easy enough to let the kids make their own schedules during this time – there is all day to get things done around the house. However, a complete lack of structure will lead to chaos and frustration. Set an expectation that each child should accomplish 5 things at the start of everyday. Get dressed for the day, read for 20 minutes, do some light chores (make their bed, pick up the toys, wipe down the bathroom sink, etc.), write for 20 minutes, and play outside for 20 minutes. These 5 items will only take up a small portion of the day, but that is a portion you won’t have to figure out activities.
- Learn a new skill. There is so much to be done during the school year that the summer break is a great time to learn something new. Teach the kids how to bake and they will have snacks too. Maybe your child wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument. Go to your local music store and see if they rent instruments. With all the resources available on YouTube, you could save money on lessons in case it isn’t an instrument your child is truly interested in. What about teaching your middle school child how to do laundry? Or teaching your high schooler how to balance a checkbook? There are so many new things to learn that summer break allows us all time to explore.
- Paid work. Do you have older children? Nothing inspires a teenager more than the concept of earning their own money. Your child may not be old enough to go to work full time, but there are lots of opportunities available. Check with the local pool to see if they are hiring for part time work. Often small businesses will offer seasonal work to teenagers who are too young to enter the workforce but are looking for ways to make money. There are always parents looking for babysitters – make some flyers for the neighborhood. If there are a lot of younger kids in the neighborhood, maybe your teenager would be interested in running a mini day camp. This gives the neighborhood kids something to do during the day AND gives their parents a break.
- Look for free events. Home Depot, Lowes, and even Pottery Barn will often hold free kids’ workshops. Keep an eye and ear out for these types of events. Local libraries will also hold events for kids, like story time for younger children or teen book clubs. Some libraries even offer classes like coding and computer programming or creative writing.
- At home activities. Be sure to have a plan for those days that are just too hot to venture outside. Have your kids invite some friends over to put on a talent show. Depending on the number of kids and the amount of time you allow for practice and decorating, this could be a whole day event. Or have a movie day where the kids watch a couple of movies. Then you can host a trivia time with questions about the movie. The child with the most correct answers can win prizes or the opportunity to choose the next movie to watch.
- Babysitting Swaps. If there are parents in the neighborhood that have kids around the same age, arrange a swap to give the other parents a break. Sometimes it is easier to manage a larger number of children that can entertain each other than to have one or two that expect you to entertain them.
- Volunteer. The summer is a great time to look for places to volunteer and have the time to do it. Ask your local library if they need help putting books back. Not only are you teaching your children the importance of giving back, but they are hopefully also learning organization skills and about the Dewey Decimal System. Ask around at senior centers – they really enjoy when the kids come in to read to their residents. You can even take the talent show on the road to these centers!
- Schedule a trip. There is at least one tourist attraction or interesting destination in your area. Determine a day to visit and let your kids know about it. The anticipation of going on this trip will make the days go by faster as well. If there are several destinations to see, ask your kids what they want to go see and let them help you plan the outing. This will help them feel more invested in making the trip a fun experience.
- Create a family bucket list. There are lots of activities that we as families cannot seem to find time to do. So make a bucket list. Ask your kids to each make a list of things that they would like to accomplish over the summer. You can make your own as well – and even include things like finally getting the garage cleaned out and organized. Everyone should be involved in deciding what the family bucket list should be. If you don’t get to everything, don’t worry! Save those items for next year’s summer break.
- Take time for yourself. There is a reason that the instructions say to put your own oxygen mask on first. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else? Look to number 6 if you need to figure out a way to get away from the kids for an afternoon. Go and let yourself be pampered with a facial or massage. Letting yourself relax with a massage will allow your tank to refill and your patience level to reset. You are a better parent when you have taken a little time for yourself!
There is no escaping summer break – even if it is only three or four weeks long. Rather than spending time dreading the chaos and whining that seems to come with this “holiday” take a minute to sketch out a plan and then embrace the fun and chaos.