Within a matter of days many moms will have their children home for the summer. I always looked forward to that time with both excitement and uncertainty. As an at-home mom, I would ask myself, “Just how will we fill our hours and our days?”
Over time I learned the value of summer structure. I also determined boundaries right from the beginning so the kids knew what was expected. This was important for me both as a stay-at-home mom and when I began to work more outside the home in recent years.
As we head into summer, there are five summer sanity saver questions you can ask yourself. Once you’ve answered them, call a family meeting and share them with the kids. Kids find security in knowing the plan and parents find peace in having a plan.
What do I want the day to look like? Yes, summer is a time to rest and relax for the kids, but having some regular responsibilities and activities provides some guidelines for everyone. At our home we had our “Basics” that had to be done each morning: getting dressed, making the bed, picking up your bedroom, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, and fixing hair. The kids knew that these need to be done by either 10:30am or before we leave to go somewhere, whichever comes first. This gave them some goals to work toward.
After lunch we had one hour of rest time. (I needed the break just as much as the kids did!) The older kids uses the opportunity to read or build Legos while the younger children would nap. The kids also had family responsibilities (also known as chores) they needed to accomplish each day.
What do I want the week to look like? Do your kids ask you a million questions like “Can I have a friend over?”, “When can we go to the pool?”, “Can we go to the park?”, “Why don’t we go to the library some time?”. Mine always did. So I tried to think through all the activities they enjoyed doing in the summer and worked them into a weekly schedule. That way the kids didn’t have to ask me when we were going to do something; they knew when it would happen each week. One summer our schedule looked like this:
Monday: Swimming Pool
Tuesday: Picnic in a park (there are enough parks in our city that we explored a different park each week during the summer)
Wednesday: Friend Day (these are for the friends who don’t live in the neighborhood…the ones you have to drive all over town and pick up!)
Thursday: Laundry and Cleaning Day (I use these days to teach the kids how to dust, clean bathrooms, and do laundry–skills they will use for a lifetime)
Our schedule wasn’t in place to hold us to a rigid timetable. In fact, it was very flexible. Sometimes we would go to the pool several other days during the week, but the kids could count on it on Monday. We might picnic in the park on Thursday, too, if another mom called and asked us if we wanted to go. What a weekly schedule did for us is answer some of the regular questions that would arise. The kids didn’t have to ask, “When can I have so and so over?” They knew they could have him/her over on Wednesday, so they could plan accordingly.
What are the guidelines for screens? We don’t watch much TV around our house, but I found each summer we had to set some guidelines for all our screens. The kids needed to know how much TV they could watch and what shows are OK. Same with computers and iPads and video games. We always used a timer for video games and computer time. It’s important to set those guidelines from day one, before bad habits set in.
How will summer affect my needs? I often focused so much on my kids in the summer that I would forget the need to take care of my own needs. Take some time to set up a plan for taking care of yourself this summer. Maybe a weekly coffee date with a girlfriend or trading “days off” with a neighbor would do the trick. Think about what energizes you and put that in your summer schedule.
What can I do to make my life easier? One summer I found myself frustrated with the constant in and out of the kitchen with dozens of used glasses on the counter. I decided to create a drink tray for the kids. Each morning I filled a large thermos with ice water. I marked cups with the kids names (including a few without names for the neighbor kids) and put the tray with cups outside in the shade for the kids, refilling it through the day as needed. That’s where they could also count on finding a snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon too. This allowed me to truly say “the kitchen is closed” for just a few hours a day!
What about you? What Summer Sanity Savers would you add to this list?