Summer Survival Guide for Parents
While summer and its activities come with a lot of fun, the lack of routine and structure can lead to some tough behaviors and transitions.
So set yourself up for summer success by following these simple tips.
Make a plan
Most parenting fails are the result of having no plan, getting caught off guard and then reacting out of stress. You don’t have to be a perfect parent, but you don’t have to set yourself up for failure either.
For example, if you know you don’t want your child to be on the screen all summer, make sure you make a plan ahead of time. And if you are in the same household, make sure that both parents are on the same page.
Set your child up for success by talking to them about the expectations you have and the potential consequences ahead of time.
Also help them succeed by setting up their physical environment.
Setting up the physical environment means not leaving screens out if you do not want to give unlimited access. Developmentally, very few kids have the impulse control necessary to resist a screen that is out in the open.
It’s important you keep kids in the loop as you make plans. Because when you include them in creating the plan, they will more willingly take part in making the plan a reality. Your child can also help to troubleshoot problems along the way, which is a great life skill to foster.
It is so tempting to try to cram a year's worth of fun into summer. But just as important is the need to schedule in breaks and down time, for both of you.
This is especially true if you have a child with special needs, a learning disability or trauma.
Make sure you are intentionally setting aside time for quiet play, reading, puzzles or family movie time. This allows kids, and you, to mentally take a breather and recharge. And it is this recharge that helps keep meltdowns and fights to a minimum.
Make self-care a priority
Summertime often brings big ideas and trips and expectations. All of which add stress to a parent’s already full plate. Regardless of whether or not you have grand plans for the summer, self-care is usually a low priority. But skipping self-care leads to shorter tempers and more frustration with your child. And your stress can lead to big behaviors in your child.
The solution is to make sure you are getting regular time just for you.
The best way to make self-care a priority is to schedule it in. That may mean you need to tag team with a partner, family member or babysitter so that you can get your time in. Or it may mean you keep an earlier bedtime for your kids in the summertime. This gives you a consistent break from being a parent in the evenings. For older kids, this does not mean they have to be asleep. Instead they can have quiet reading time until actual sleeping time.
If you have a partner, make sure you are both getting your self-care in. This includes helping to protect each other’s recharging time. Think of it as being self-care buddies. You both support each other’s needs and keep each other accountable.
Make time for individualized attention
All kids, no matter their age, want their parent’s love and attention. True, it may look a lot different as they grow older, but the desire for connection is still there. To maintain or build connection, set up a schedule for spending time with each child.
For parents low on time, 5 minutes of connecting each day can make a huge difference in a child’s behavior. Running errands with just one of your kids can be a good way to squeeze in connection time. Make it interactive by having them act as the car DJ, plan the route or ask them them their opinion along the way.
If you can set aside a longer stretch of time, it can do wonders for your relationship.
Make sure you are following your child’s lead during their special time. Talk about what they want to talk about, play what they want to play or go where they want to go. If you are running errands during your connection time, let your child choose the order.
Individual attention can be especially helpful in dealing with sibling rivalry or jealousy.
Keep movement and nature a priority
Countless studies have shown the positive impact of both movement and nature on a child’s mental health and development. Ideally, at least 1 hour a day of active movement and/or time in nature is the goal.
If you can only do one thing this summer, let it be plenty of movement and outside time.
Keep realistic expectations
Summer brings excitement for parents and kids alike. Help set yourself up for success by keeping your own expectations in check.
Be honest with what your kids can and cannot handle. And try to anticipate when meltdowns might occur. Use this information as a way to determine what you take on in your summer planning.
There will be times when you need to bail early or you miss doing something altogether. And you get to be disappointed, just like your kids. But make sure you are modeling good ways to handle your disappointment. That means naming your disappointment, sadness or anger. Showing them how to cope with big feelings, either through breathing or physical movement. And then completing the cycle by showing acceptance. If you made some mistakes along the way, don't sweat it, just repair.
If you have a child with special needs, a learning disability or trauma, know your plans will be different than other families' plans. Kids will have less challenges if you stick to a schedule even when you are on break. It may be too overwhelming or overstimulating to do some activities. So summer life will be about finding a way to meet your needs, while honoring the needs of your child.
If something is important to you, plan for how you can still make it happen. That might mean doing or going to something for a shorter period of time. Or it may mean you incorporate your scheduled self-care time into the activity so at least you get to do it.