How to Get through the Summer Without Killing Your Kids

Children are a gift from God, but by the end of the summer, many parents are at their wits’ end. After a few weeks, children can get bored and parents are ready to send the children right back to school.

The following are ways to help you and your children have the best summer possible and for you as a parent to actually miss your kids when they return to school:

  1. Children of all ages need structure. They are used to a regular routine within a school day. We would all like to just let the day evolve, but the uncertainty can create anxiety in children. Try posting a daily and/or weekly calendar showing the activities planned. For younger children you might make a chart showing breakfast, morning activities, lunch, afternoon activities, etc.
  2. Plan the day around active and then quiet activities. This rhythm helps children to exert energy and then be calmer. For example, the morning could start with outdoor play and then snack and an art activity.
  3. TV, computers, phones, and video games can be babysitters for parents and keep children out of their hair. But, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that there be no more than one hour of screen time for children per day. Put this in your schedule and stick with it.
  4. Richard Louv coined the phrase “Nature Deficit Disorder.” In his book, Last Child in the Woods, he stated that children spend too many hours indoors, which can lead children to feeling alienated from nature. The result of this can be reduced attention spans and negative moods. So, summer is the perfect time to go hiking, camping, bike riding, and other outdoor activities.
  5. The school day leaves little time for recess where children can devise playground games and have the opportunity to learn to solve interpersonal issues. At home we now have “play dates.” My experience is that parents often choose whom their children will play with, where they will play, and the activity is often planned by the parents. Summer is the perfect time for children to have free play with neighborhood children where they determine the games to play and negotiate the rules.
  6. If you are able, it is helpful to include things like vacation bible school or a sports camp to break up the summer routine and give everyone a change of pace. Otherwise, try to plan trips to places like the pool or the zoo.
  7. Put a quiet time into your day. Kids and parents both need some alone time. After lunch there might be a time when everyone retires to their own rooms. Children can rest or do quiet activities such as puzzles, reading books, or drawing.
  8. Many children lose the academic skills they have gained when they are not used during the summer. I am not a big fan of worksheets, as hands-on learning experiences are how children learn best. Do simple things to maintain your child’s academic skills. Have them write the store list, find the items on the shelves, read the labels, and figure out which is cheaper—the bananas or strawberries.
  9. If you are going on vacation, let the children use the internet (with adult supervision) to learn about the location. Capitalize on the interests of the children by going to the library and letting them check out books about a topic.
  10. Give your children chores to do each day and put this in the schedule. Summer is a great time to get them involved in car washing, helping in the garden, cooking dinner, or reorganizing their room.
  11. Parents, take care of yourselves. Keep your sense of humor. Get childcare or exchange childcare with another parent so you can have lunch with a friend. If you become exhausted, this will affect your mood, and your mood can determine the atmosphere of your home.

Lastly, may your summer be one as described by Andy A., year 6, Methven School (courtesy of nzpoetrybox.wordpress.com):

O the wonderful activities of summer
Surfing and swimming
Playing in the sun.
And O the wonderful foods of summer
Hotdogs and ice-cream,
We’ve barely begun.
Yet, the most wonderful things of summer
Are family and friends
Having lots of fun.

Kathy Milans

Kathy has experience as an elementary educator, teacher trainer, adjunct professor, and has served as Family Resource Director for a major hospital. Kathy is a Kentucky Licensed Pastoral Counselor and is credentialed as a Registered Play Therapist/Supervisor by the American Association of Play Therapy. She is owner of a private practice, Path of Life Ministry, in Wilmore, KY.

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