The kids are home for the summer break. What’s a parent to do with all of the free time on hand? It seems everyone is looking forward to the break. You may have planned a family vacation. If you have younger kids, you have probably tried to get them into at least one life enriching camp, may need daycare, are looking for play dates, and creatively finding ways to keep them from losing the knowledge they gained at school. That’s the first 2 to 4 weeks. Then what?
Everyone’s complaining they’re bored. Younger kids may be hyper-active, climbing the walls, and fighting with each other. Older kids such as high school students or young adults, may be seeking more time with friends, ways to expand their independence, and finding new ways to test your limits. All of this can push any parent’s buttons, and challenge their levels of tolerance.
When kids are home from school for extended amounts of time they are out of their routines, have large amounts of unstructured time and may have a huge reduction in their level of social interaction. This can lead to mischief making; contribute to a lapse of good habits and chores; cause changes in sleep patterns; and lead to the development of negative emotions.
Here are some helpful ideas for maintaining sanity over the summer months:
* Keep kids’ routines of going to bed and waking at a certain time.
* Require kids to be dressed and finish morning chores by a certain time and before any screen time takes place
* Avoid an overly relaxed schedule. Throwing structure by the way side during breaks seems like fun and a good idea, but it can lead to fatigue, mood and behavior changes, and difficulty re-establishing routines when school starts again. Kids usually benefit from having a schedule, and clear guidelines. This creates a sense of safety because they know what is expected of them, and what to expect from their day.
* Help kids develop a plan for each day the night before to give them a sense of empowerment over their experiences, increase their ability to plan ahead and to help them to create their own sense of structure
* Encourage and support your children in developing interests and hobbies they enjoy and can become good at to alleviate boredom, build self esteem, enable them to meet other kids who share the same interests and to reduce negative emotions
* Encourage your kids to spend quality time with positive friends to help them maintain supportive relationships, increase positive emotions, and build self esteem.
* If your children are bored it’s okay to challenge them to use their creativity to find a safe activity to occupy themselves. You don’t have to be a personal entertainment center.
Don’t forget to put yourself on the list. As important as it is to take care of your children, it is also important to take care of yourself. Make sure you:
* Are getting enough sleep, exercise and healthful food
* Take a break from your children as needed
* Spend time pursuing your own interests
* Connect with friends
* Have fun with your kids
Try to plan at least one fun activity with the entire family each week. You don’t have to go to an amusement park or spend a lot of money to connect with each other. Playing board games, hiking, building things, and making crafts are a few ideas, which may be appealing. It’s a good idea to take turns deciding what that activity will be to help everyone to feel included, and excited about family time.
Lastly, it is always a great idea to seek additional support for yourself and your loved ones in times of stress. Support can come in the form of family, friends, your community and neighbors, as well as from therapeutic professionals like myself. Enjoy your summer. Live well, and savor the life you are creating.