Often, there’s a race to the end of the school year. One so focused on finishing that parents neglect to line up activities that will make for an awesome summer break. Then the scramble begins: piecing together child care, desperately searching for campsites that haven’t already been booked up, dreaming of the idyllic summer camp only to find all those camps already full.
What could have been chill time is now scramble-to-fill time, because endless unstructured days can be tough on a family. Setting aside some time to map it out on the web this spring will make summer days a breeze.
Even if home life is very flexible and the family schedule varies a lot, school provides a sense of predictability and rhythm that is grounding for kids. Without that structure, kids can flounder. Summer is a time many parents both long for and dread, aware that loungy, unstructured hours can lead to sibling squabbles and whininess.
But, summer break is all about free time, right? As much as parents may want to let kids go straight into the break, kids might soon go bonkers during the first week of summer if there’s not enough to do. The switch from high structure to no structure is simply too much for some of them.
Tech Makes Summer Plans Easier
Get ahead of the curve by planning a balanced mix of summer activities now. It’s supposed to be a time where the absence of pressure allows kids to reboot. A variety of activities – including unstructured time – will help foster more restoration out of the three off-months, too. Be sure to pencil it in!
Nailing down family trips, weeks of camp, playdates, and downtime before the break starts will offer a sense of peace, even without the familiar structure of school. Start surfing (the web) now to plan an excellent summer adventure. It’s the time for catching up on essentials of childhood like play and time spent outdoors that the school year doesn’t always allow.
Also, it’s a time to dive into the kind of learning that can’t always happen within school walls; things like learning to code or produce music. There are some great camps out there, too. Find the mix that best suits each child. Make summer stress-free by plotting everything out on a giant desk calendar or syncing family calendars through everyone’s smartphones.
Summer break isn’t the time to skimp on chores either. The responsibility of chores keeps kids engaged with important tasks and offers a set of rules to follow. Giving children a specific chore to complete daily in ChoreMonster, or teens a slightly-more-involved task in Landra every day can help them feel productive, even if they potentially loathe the idea. Though, adding that new toy or night out they’ve been wanting is sure to entice them.
Winding Up and Winding Down
Transitions are another point to consider while making summer plans. Parents need to think about how their children transition from structured to unstructured time.
How does she do with more and less structure? Is he the kind of kid who can be hiking in the woods one week and programming his own game the next, jumping from one set of counselors and kids to another in the same amount of time? Or does she need more time to ease in and out of a new situation? What will the realities of parental obligations allow here? Aim for a plan that will be supportive to both parents and children. The path of least resistance is usually the most fun for everyone!
It goes without saying that every family is different. However, one thing everyone shares is the need for some hard-earned R and R once summer comes along. Whether mom and dad work full-time or have more flexibility, mapping out summer now actually makes room for even more fun later.
Jenny Kepler, MA, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and writer who has been helping families navigate parenthood for over 10 years. Her office is in downtown Portland, OR where she does in person therapy with adults, couples, and families. She also offers parent coaching over the phone for people who can’t see her in Portland. http://jennykepler.com/
The FamilyTech suite of apps are designed to bring sanity to family and connect parents, kids, and couples in a way like never before. Download Mothershp, ChoreMonster, Landra, or HoneyDo to start seeing a happier family today!