In a Nutshell: How to survive the Return of the Little People? Let them work, have a schedule, plan something fun every day, let them be bored, and focus your parenting.
Some of us are still reeling from new summer schedules and the return of the little people. I love summer vacation, but there are times when I go crazy keeping everyone busy and the house in one piece. Even those who work during the day still find lots of long summer evenings to fill. Summer camps, lessons, and trips to the pool can help, but most of us can’t afford enough activities to keep everyone occupied. If you are already losing hair and patience this vacation, here are some summer stress busters to help you deal with the eager faces staring at you, waiting for the next summer adventure.
- Let them work. Not many of us are fortunate enough to live on a farm where work is easy to come by and expected of every family member. Summer is a great time to start a Clean Room Club, have kids help prepare freezer meals, build a shed, plant a garden, learn to make bread, or perform service for others. Kids must feel needed to grow up well. Don’t be afraid to let your kids work, and learn to ignore some of the complaining.
- Have a schedule. If you wake up without any kind of a plan for a summer day, it will be probably be more frazzle than fun and fill up with too much TV. A basic summer schedule might include: dress and pick up rooms before breakfast, practice the piano before lunch, read after lunch, do a fun activity at 3pm, play PJ games before bed, etc. You can build in time for academics, quiet time, and TV time. Schedules can help structure your life into manageable portions and let kids know what to expect. If you can get your kids involved with making the schedule, you’re more likely to have compliance. On days you have family adventures planned, enjoy tossing the routines to the wind. When you have a basic schedule in place most of the time, it is even more fun to stay in PJ’s all day and eat ice cream for breakfast.
- Plan something fun every day. I don’t try to be a perpetual summer camp counselor, but I do plan one fun activity each day. Sarah has posted some great ideas, and there are millions more ideas on the web, in magazines, and in books from the library. Try having one set time when you commit not to multi-task, answer the phone, or let yourself get distracted with other concerns. Just have fun with your kids and enjoy the fact that you get to raise little people. Once a week, make a plan for the coming days, and you may even find yourself looking forward to the activity as much as your kids do. Another fun twist on this is to co-op with a couple friends. You could alternate days to take all the kids to do a craft, game, or treasure-hunt while the others take a break or excavate the laundry room.
- Let them be bored. Yes, really. I think that boredom is an absolute blessing for children. There is no way a parent could possible plan and orchestrate all of the crazy escapades kids will invent when they are stone cold bored. On one such day last summer, my kids were bored enough to create a “monkey club” underneath one overhanging bush in our small backyard. They made up names, posted signs, and well…honestly, I’m not sure of what else they did. All I knew is that my little monkeys were happy, dirty, and outside in the sunshine several days in a row. Another time when my two boys were younger, they spent literally hours digging a hole in the backyard. I redirected their efforts to an authorized location and put a stop to their plan to cover the hole with branches to trap their sister, but otherwise just stayed out of their fun. If kids come up to you with constant whines of “I’m bored!” you can say, “Oh good! I can’t wait to see what you come up with!” or “Fabulous! I could use your help. I’m just about to clean the bathrooms.” Both responses usually serve to send them scooting along to their next adventure. If you or electronic devices are constantly entertaining your children, you are doing them a huge disservice.
- Focus your parenting. Summer is a great time to sharpen your parenting skills, and have time to work on problem behaviors. When you are together so much, you can see patterns more clearly, and get insights into how best to approach the situation. This is a great time to focus on the type of environment you want to creating at home. This post will help you create a positive climate at home that is so necessary to having real and lasting influence on your kids. Grab a parenting book from the library, reread Falling in Love with your Family posts, and spend time reflecting and setting goals. Focus your energy not only on keeping kids occupied, but on using this time with so much togetherness to strengthen your family.
The Return of the Little People sounds like it could be a horror movie, but with a little planning, you can turn their summer vacations into a wonderful adventure instead.
Please Share! What is one easy, thrifty activity you have done with your kids so far?