We love our kids. Really, we do. However, contemplating an entire summer with them constantly underfoot can be, well, daunting.
Don't panic. It is possible to enjoy the long summer break and still maintain your sanity. Here are some suggestions to help you survive this summer.
Establish routines. Children crave structure. While you can lighten up on the schedule, still maintain normal routines. Encourage your children to do their chores early in the morning so that you can enjoy summer activities without stress. Eat at regular times and plan some quiet time each day. Just because your children don't have school in the morning doesn't mean that they should stay up until midnight every night. Maintain a regular bedtime so the transition back to school won't be too difficult.
Don't over-plan. Summer is a great time to enjoy activities together as a family. However, do not schedule yourself so tightly that you don't have any down time. The lazy days of summer should be just that — lazy.
I had a friend who decided that she would take her kids out on a field trip every day during the summer. They went to several parks, the beach, the pool, the mountains, museums and then back to more parks. Although they created some great family memories, she and her children were utterly exhausted by the end of summer. Their vacation did not feel like a vacation at all.
Send them outside. I know it's hot, but kids still need to get out in the fresh air. You don't want them — or you — to go stir crazy.
I loved summertime when I was a child. My friends and I would roam the neighborhood together finding fun things to do. We'd play in the sprinklers or a kiddie pool. We'd have water balloon fights. We'd have bake sales and sell lemonade. We'd go down to the creek and catch crawdads. We'd play hide-and-seek as the sun went down and the streetlights came on. Then, we'd tell ghost stories under the pale glow of the streetlights until our parents called us into the house to go to bed.
I would not have had so many wonderful summertime memories if my mom hadn't kicked us out of the house regularly.
Create a Bored Jar. Children are used to having their days structured and preplanned for them. After the novelty of summer freedom wears off, they struggle to know what to do with themselves. Listening to a child whine, “But Mom, I'm booored,” can get on your nerves quickly.
Be prepared and create a Bored Jar at the beginning of summer. Choose several activities that your kids might not think of, such as drawing with sidewalk chalk, nature rubbings or having a scavenger hunt. Write each activity on a slip of paper, fold it up and put it in the jar. Add some activities that keep their minds sharp while out of school, such as reading a book or writing a story. Get sneaky and add a couple of papers that say, “Help Mom with a chore.” When your children say that they're bored, have them choose an activity from the jar.
Swap with friends. Don't feel like you have to entertain your children all by yourself all of the time. Enlist the help of your friends or the parents of your children's friends. Choose one day a week where you and your friends alternate providing activities for all the kids. You might choose to bake cookies together one week, one friend might have an art activity the second week, and another friend might plan a water day the third week. Depending on the number of parents you enlist, you can have several afternoons free to enjoy yourself.
Schedule “Me time.” Don't forget to schedule some “Me time” for yourself. Get out of the house and take a walk alone in the park, visit friends, join a book club or make an appointment for a pedicure. Take advantage of the time when kids are in bed to take a bath and read a book. Stop at the ice cream parlor while you're out running errands.
Summer seems like a long span of time, but with these tips, it will fly by before you know it. You may even find yourself looking forward to next summer.
Shelli Proffitt Howells is a BYU graduate, a creative writer, a happy wife and a mother of six. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.