When I was a child, Summer. Lasted. For. Ever. I remember long days that usually began with picking beans and then weeds in the hot sun, followed by endless hours of playing (and bickering) with my siblings in the hot sun. By the end of the summer, I was ready for school to start. Now that I’m an adult, it seems like summer is over in the blink of an eye. I’m enjoying having both of my young adult kids living in my house for the summer—I know that one day I will truly have an empty nest, so I’m trying to remind myself to pause, enjoy the longer days, and be present for and with my family.
My family’s life is hectic during the school year, but summer break is also hard, in a different way. I’m a single parent and work full time, so my kids (5 and 9) have to be in camps or child care every day. I wish I could spend more time with them during their summer break, but I just got a new job and can’t request time off yet. Sometimes our schedules feel just as hectic and tiring as during the school year. What tips do you have for getting through the summer and having fun?
Many parents have the same dilemma—kids get a welcome break from the school schedule, but parents still have to work every day! It sounds like you already know the importance of arranging safe, interesting, engaging places for your children to be while you’re at work, which is a great starting point. Here are a few other tips to try:
Focus on simple ways to connect every day. For many families, summer means a break from the hectic routine of school, homework, sports or other afterschool activities. This often creates more free time in the evening or on weekends, or can make it easier for some children to have later bedtimes. Use these opportunities to spend quality time together and add variety to your daily routines. The simplest ideas are often the best, like having a “picnic” on the floor or outdoors instead of eating at the table, or going on walks or playing games after dinner instead of watching TV.
Plan family outings. Build a wish list with your kids and encourage them to be creative about where and how you can explore something new together. Again, simple and inexpensive activities are often the ones that create happy memories that last a lifetime. Visit a local museum, go to a park or beach you’ve never been to, attend free outdoor concerts or movies, try a new ice cream or frozen yogurt shop, or visit the library or local bookstore. The possibilities for creating happy memories while strengthening your relationships with your children are endless.
Encourage your children to develop new skills and interests. Talk to your children about what they’re interested in learning or trying, then find activities in the community or things you could do at home. Keep it simple enough that it’s fun for them and realistic for you. Even teaching your children to make something besides cereal for breakfast can be a positive learning experience and provide them with lifelong skills.
Maintain a routine. Maintaining some consistency in routines for eating, sleeping, playing and chores will make life more predictable and easier for everyone. It helps ensure your children get enough sleep and good nutrition, teaches them about time, and can give them something to look forward to—e.g., go to the library every Thursday, call a relative every Sunday.
Final Thoughts: There are many ways to be positive parents during the summer that meet children’s needs. Just remember it doesn’t have to be complicated or cost anything—keep it small and simple!
Nicole Young is the mother of two children, ages 19 and 23, who also manages Santa Cruz County’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, made available by First 5 Santa Cruz County and the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency and Human Services Department. To learn more, visit triplep.first5scc.org or contact First 5 at 465.2217 or [email protected].