School’s out and some of our kids are already at home with us. Oh sure, some will go to sleepaway camp for a month, or to a day camp and return every night. There’s summer school—oh joy!—and then there are some kids who will be home the entire summer with no particular plans.
Whatever our summer plans, we know the pace is slower. Many times the reality of the summer break from school feels like there are even more demands on parents. Kids are bored and believe it’s our duty to fill their every waking moment with fun. Frustration begins to set in by day two and a pattern of yelling and fighting can shortly follow. Let’s make this summer successful right from the start. We can create the structure we all need and the kind of fun that kids can make with little help.
Structure is a tool used to effectively communicate what’s acceptable. We need structure to be effective at work and school, but have you considered using a similar structure to help your entire family get through the summer?
I’m a big fan of using calendars, agendas, lists, and reminder notes. I also like the idea of addressing issues before they become overwhelming. As a way to communicate what our summer will look like and address the possibility of bored kids, I suggest writing down a basic schedule of what each day will include. Start simple and basic with times and activities, such as what time to get out of bed, when to eat breakfast and get dressed, and what the activity of the day will be.
I love using whiteboards and sticky-notes to write down all the ideas of possible activities, then using a weekly calendar to post them. First add your work schedules, camp schedules, any classes, the major must-do’s for each family member, and scheduled appointments. Let each family member see the calendar come to life, color-coded and all. Talk excitedly, but calmly, about the various activities each person wants to do. There will be discussions about finances and feasibility as well—it’s important that those be discussed without drama.
Understand that children are taught to share and compromise both at school and at home. Within reason, parents, too, can certainly compromise, cooperate, and allow their kids to make their own choices for the summer schedule. This is a great way to communicate good life skills. Working on the structure of each person’s activities, those set up for the entire family, and room for spontaneous adventures, will help everyone see and understand how the summer will look like. More “buy-in” from everyone, less “check-out,” and even less boredom.
There will be times when the kids will say they are bored. It’s inevitable. But you don’t have to fall apart in response to this cry. Validate that you have heard them by acknowledging their boredom, then calmly suggest that they choose from activities you all wrote down earlier. Talk it out calmly and tell your kids you believe in their ability to make wise and fun choices.
Creating structure for your summer will take practice, but I believe your family can have a wonderful summer. Your worst summer problems should be a minor sunburn, not a total emotional melt-down. Summer is the time to enjoy our kids and do activities that will provide fun memories for years to come. This summer, when it’s getting closer to the start of the new school year, you’ll be heard exclaiming, “No, we need more time, we’re all having so much fun!”
© Copyright 2010 by Beth S. Pumerantz, LMFT. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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