Summer Survival Guide for Parents

Sanity-saving tips for parent juggling work and kids when school is out

family reading in hammock
Get more downtime into summer days to reduce your stress.. OJO Images/Justin Pumfrey/Getty Images

It's summertime, and as the song goes, the livin' is easy--for kids, that is. For parents, summer can often be stressful and anything but relaxing as we juggle work and kids who are out of school, and we try to cobble together childcare and find activities for kids so that they don't veg out in front of the TV for the entire summer break.

To minimize your stress and make the summer months more enjoyable, try these ideas:

  • Don't try to schedule every single minute of every single day. Not only will it drive you crazy, it's actually not good for kids to be overscheduled, especially in the summer. It's good for a child to be bored occasionally and to have downtime so that he has the time and space to use his imagination and recharge his batteries.
  • Trade off childcare. Get together with other parents you trust and set up a childcare schedule so that the grownups can get a break and kids can spend time playing together. You and your spouse may also want to trade kids with your adult siblings who have kids; by shipping your child off to an aunt's or uncle's home for a few days and then having your nieces and nephews come to stay at your house, the kid cousins get a chance to bond while you sneak in a few kid-free days with your spouse.
  • Get grandparents involved. Invite grandma and grandpa to come and stay for a week or two or send the kids to them. Summer is an excellent time for kids to spend time with grandparents and the loving, free childcare is a lifesaver in the summer for busy parents.
  • Give kids more household chores and responsibilities. Giving kids chores is good for them, and good for you, too. If you don't get your kids into the habit of bringing their own cups and plates to the sink or wash them or put them in the dishwasher if they're old enough after they have a snack ('cause, let's face it, growing school-age kids tend to graze all day long), you're bound to feel like an indentured servant at the end of the day. Have kids clean up after themselves (and try to maintain this routine after the summer is over) and teach them how to do chores that are right for their age.
  • Savor do-nothing days. Try to cut back on errands on the weekends, and take advantage of the fact that so many things slow down in the summer. Soon enough, you and your kids will be running around to and from extracurricular activities, finishing up homework, rushing to get dinner on the table, and doing all the things that need to get done during the busy school year. For now, enjoy the time you have to not do anything and do as much nothing as possible.
  • Relish the ordinary family activities. Take joy in simple things, like eating lunch outside in the back yard. Take advantage of the extra daylight by going for a bike ride after work, or packing a picnic to take to the park. Sit out in the back yard in a hammock or on a blanket and read a good book together.
  • Accept the fact that not everything will get done. Your work days may have to be modified or you may want to ask if you can do some work at home. Your house may be more messy and less organized with the kids hanging out at home more. Once you learn to let go of perfection and remember that the kids will be back in school before you know it, you'll feel more relaxed about things not being perfectly orderly in the summer months.
  • Don't forget your own needs. If your kids are not in a day camp or at a sleepaway camp, you will definitely need some child care. Find a sitter you can trust and go and do the things you need to do to take care of yourself, such as hitting the gym or getting a haircut. Feeling and looking ragged will not help you be a better parent, and will definitely add to your stress.

Finally, try to remember that these days will be all too fleeting. Before you know it, summer will be over and the new school year will start, and you and your kids will be rushing around again. Be grateful for any extra time you have to just snuggle next to your child, and live in those moments.

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