It’s officially summer!
Here in the Houston area, this is the first full week of summer for most school-age kids and teens. It’s such a fun time of year – I love seeing everyone feeling proud of themselves for finishing another year, and feeling happy, relaxed and ready enjoy the summer.
However, after the initial excitement, sometimes things can get tougher. Kids start getting bored, getting on each other’s nerves, and fighting more with each other. Parents begin to look forward to their kids’ return to school to get some relief.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are several things you can do in order to make your family’s summer fun and enjoyable for everyone. The following tips can help you and your kids have the best summer possible. (Most of these are applicable for stay at home or working parents and kids of all ages.) Remember that a little bit of planning and implementing these ideas at the beginning of the summer will go a long way.
1. Set the ground rules early. Be sure your child knows what your expectations are from the beginning and stick to them. Talk through the expected curfew with your teen. Make sure your child understands what chores they are expected to do and when they should complete them. If you have rules about when friends can come over, allowance, phone use, or anything, be sure your child is aware of these from the beginning.
2. Have a daily routine. I realize this sounds like kind of a drag, but it’s very important. Kids and teens, especially those with emotional or behavioral difficulties, do best when their routine is predictable. They will be able to function best if they know what to expect and when to expect it each day. This doesn’t have to be complicated or set in stone, but setting up a simple daily schedule can make a world of difference in your child’s mood and behavior. With younger kids, putting this in pictures or in writing can be helpful so that they can remember it may be helpful.
I loved this one from I Heart Organizing. She also includes a free printout if you want to copy her look.
3. In addition to the daily routine, write out a schedule for the entire summer as well. If you have a family calendar, just write it on there, or else print out a monthly calendar template. Write out the weeks that the kids have camps or activities planned, and family vacations, etc. This can help your child (and the rest of the family) know what’s coming and when it’s coming. This way, even when the routine is significantly disrupted, they are ready for it. It can also help increase excitement for upcoming events.
4. The summer schedule is also an important took to help you ensure that the summer is planned out in a healthy way. Are there several weeks in a row that look empty? Maybe during those weeks would be a good time to plan more structured activities or trips, such as a day at the zoo or a craft day. Are there several weeks in a row that are insanely busy? It may be important to think through if that’s actually going to be good for your child, or if they will get too exhausted from so much activity. Maybe a camp could be moved to a different week or cancelled entirely if it seems like it might be too much.
5. That brings me to my next point – make sure your child has time to relax and even feel bored! Summer is a time to take a break, and when it’s too busy, kids can get worn out and irritable. It’s okay to have days with nothing planned except the daily routine. It’s good for kids to feel bored and to have to come up with something to entertain themselves with. They don’t need to be constantly entertained – unstructured play is actually really good for them, but it can’t happen if they don’t have free time.
6. Be sure to put limits on your child’s technology time. I know I sound like a broken record with this one, but it really is important for their emotional and physical health that they don’t spend all their time playing video games and watching TV. With no limits, it’s easy for kids to rack up 8 hours plus of technology time every day during the summer. This can really mess with their mood as well as their sleep habits. Set a limit that’s reasonable for your child and your family, and then stick to it.
7. Make memories and create traditions together. I’ve talked about the importance of traditions in previous posts, and summer is a perfect time to create some together. A family vacation is a great one, but it doesn’t have to be this big. Bake a cake together, go camping in your backyard, or have a family movie night. Here’s a creative list of 25 summer traditions to start with your kids if you need more inspiration.
8. Help your child continue to learn over summer. This doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) be intense or structured. However, research has shown that continuing to learn over summer vacation is important in maintaining academic performance throughout the school years. This can be as simple as going to the library and picking out lots of fun books to read or attending a story hour. It could be coming up with science experiments together, practicing math through cooking, or investigating your child’s interests together. It may mean attending a summer camp that involves learning, such as science, theater, or even space camp, if you live near NASA like I do. Summer is a time for learning to be fun and enjoyable.
9. Plan for when times get rough. There will be days that your kids are feeling tired, bored or argumentative, no matter what you do. Have a plan for these days. Have a list of ideas that your kids can pick from when they get bored. Maybe they need dropped off at a friend’s or grandparent’s house for a few hours to get a break from their sibling if they’re fighting a lot. Try to foresee what issues might come up and have a few ideas in your pocket for how to deal with them.
10. Enjoy yourself! Summer should be a fun time for the whole family. Your kids will enjoy their summer the most if you are enjoying it with them. If you’re having fun, feeling relaxed, and enjoying yourself when you’re with your child, they will be able to do so as well.