No more pencils, no more books .... oh, no! The kids are home! But before those school doors close, here are five tips to keep every mom sane and happy this summer!
1. Perfect Parenting
My good friend Ann, a mother of four, says parenting is never meant to be perfect, it is something you merely survive regularly. Don’t put much pressure on yourself to orchestrate a seamless summer and don’t feel responsible for the family’s minute-by-minute happiness and well–being. Allow for changes in the plan and down time. There can even be some boredom. Overscheduling the family and overextending yourself will only increase stress and unhappiness. On a day that is a challenge, remember you only need to survive it, not make it perfect.
2. Set Expectations
Set up expectations for your kids. Teachers do the same on the first day of class whether it is 10th grade or kindergarten. Older children can be asked to take on new responsibilities and also be given new freedoms to test. Push your younger children to entertain themselves sometimes and be okay without a planned activity. No matter their ages, don’t be afraid to teach your children that summer is a break for everyone.
3. Ask for Help
Last weekend a friend jumped through hoops to hire her former nanny to stay the night with her children while she and her husband traveled to a wedding. It might seem more common or even easier to pay for, say, yard work or babysitting, but next time try asking a friend for help driving or supervising the kids and then offer to help them in return. Summer can be stressful for parents, especially when work demands are unforgiving. Just remember: This is not a license to take advantage of friends - especially educators or stay-at-home moms who are sometimes assumed to have more time than others during the summer.
4. Take Time for Yourself
In 13 years I have never gone on a trip without my children or husband unless it was for business. This year, my friend Janine turned 50. She rented a house in Charleston, S.C., and invited friends to join her in celebrating. Most are staying for the full week. After staring at the JetBlue screen for a long time, I decided to stay for three days (read: guilt) but at least I am going. This advice holds true for the daily grind as well. Don’t shortcut things in your routine such as workouts, healthy eating, or other things you enjoy just because “the kids are home.”
5. Enjoy the Moment as a Family
Some parents are sending a child off to college in the fall. One friend just booked a family trip to Puerto Rico. She guesses this is one of the last times this year the whole family will be able to be together since two of her children will be starting college in September. Even if the summer budget does not provide much extra money or your work does not allow for a lot of time off, a special day trip or two could be a summer highlight. You might even start a new family tradition (possible for any budget). Recently we started having Sunday dinners with our friends. Our kids have a blast together (most of the time), and my husband and I relish the time connecting with our friends. The center of the activity is not the food, it is the time to be together as a family and with friends.