School to Summer Segue
Every spring, summertime seduces parents with promises of family bonding and easy-breezy relaxation. Snap out of it; summer bliss fades fast! Once the kids get bored and the fighting starts, parents wonder what they saw in summertime in the first place.
Don’t let yourself get dumped by summer this year. Fighting, housework and fatigue may pop your fantasy bubble, but with a little prep and self-care, you will enjoy the season for all it is meant to be.
Spring Prep for Summer Break
You can’t expect a pleasant summer if you don’t plan ahead for it. Dr. Laura Markham is the author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life. She is founder of AhaParenting.com and speaks to groups of parents across the country. She said that one way to plan for a happy summer break is to explain to kids what they can expect. “Young children need to know what to expect in their lives. It makes them more secure--and happier,” she said. Discussing what they can expect of their daily schedule (a rough order of events) is helpful.
Understandably, families are attracted to the whimsical summer schedule that allows for spontaneous entertainment and bonding. Fun time takes planning, however, so schedule it. Before the last day of school, Markham suggests brainstorming what would make the summer fantastic.
One of Markham’s strategies is to hold a summer planning session. Ask kids to rip out pictures from magazines that illustrate fun ideas for summer activities, such as a clipping of an animal they might spot at the local zoo. Cram the scraps into a glass jar and position it so the kids can draw an idea when the scheduled fun time occurs. Dinnertime is a prime time to generate summer plans, said Markham. “Use a notebook to list ideas, and pick a few doable things,” she said.
Summertime prep includes drafting a schedule, but it also requires getting yourself ready mentally, i.e., setting goals for teaching responsibility and discipline. The break from school allows for fun but not at the expense of your kids’ school readiness--and your sanity.
“Maybe summer isn’t all about fun. Maybe it’s about being a team member,” said Jim Fay, Co-Founder of The Love and Logic Institute. He has over 30 years of experience in education as a teacher, principal, administrator and consultant. He has authored over 20 books including the bestseller Parenting With Love and Logic.
Fay emphasizes in his books and presentations that the child’s role should be team member, not honored guest. He said it is healthy for kids to do their fair share around the house, that they don’t’ need to be entertained 24/7. “Within boredom is the seeds of creativity . . . . It’s good practice for being an adult,” Fay said.
Summer mornings begin with getting their jobs done. Even preschoolers can help out, Fay said. Doing chores meets the basic human need to be an important member of the family, Fay said, which makes your kids happier and more confident. “By age six, kids can be responsible for one meal a week,” Fay said. “Kids who have the opportunity [to be in charge of a meal] get enamored with cooking, but it’s not the cooking but doing something for somebody else, that they are a needed part of the family.”
TV Sabotages Summertime
Television is the cheapest babysitter and most expensive crutch. Markham said that parents say yes to screen time when they are feeling overwhelmed, and the time will expand to fill any time you give it, time that could have been better spent. Kids stop being interested in other hobbies when they prize their screens, she said.
Instead of screens sucking up fun time, Markham said to kick the kids outside; it is good for you and good for them. Before summer break hits, ensure that whatever outdoor space you have available to the kids is safe—you will be more likely to send them out to play unsupervised. Markham suggested deciding as a family what screen time will be like over the summer. You can create buy-in by asking for the kids’ suggestions for which days you will permit screen time.
When kids inevitably get bored, Fay suggested saying to them, “I hope you work that out.” He said parents don’t need to offer their kids things to do—the parents’ ideas will just get rejected because the kids are getting what they want: their parents’ attention.
Don’t Get in the Ring
Parents aren’t meant to be their kids’ referees, Fay said. In fact, parents don’t have to be in the presence of fighting, either. Fay suggested telling the kids, “You guys need to find different places to be or work this out somewhere else.” It’s an opportunity for kids to learn conflict-resolving strategies. Teach the kids language to solve disagreements, Markham said.
Kids fight for many reasons, boredom being one of them. But, kids also fight when they feel they’re not getting one-on-one attention from their parents. To prevent it, schedule one-on-one time with each child, Markham said.
Strive to neutralize kid’s arguments, Fay said. Kids argue about limits, boundaries and their fair share of the work. Parents might try to explain why it’s fair, but that isn’t effective. Try repeating the line: “And, what did I say” and walk away, Fay suggested. Give yourself time to take a breath. The kids will grasp that you’re in control, not them. The easy, breezy summer parents daydream about becomes a reality when they plan for self-care and casual structure.