When I was a kid, summer vacation meant I could go out with my friends barefooted and play by the creek until lunch time. In for a quick bit and then off again until dinner time. Our neighborhood was full of stay at home moms and they all looked out for us.
These days families where both parents work are the majority. I know how challenging it can be to feel the pull of having to work and wanting the best summer for your kids. As a single mom, I started planning for summer vacation months ahead. My solutions when my children were young were finding moms to trade time with, hiring the high school neighbor to babysit and as they got older, finding programs that would keep them involved, excited and interested. When there isn’t a parent at home, summer vacation can put a real stress on the family. Even if your children are old enough to stay home alone, they still need structure and someone to look in on them.
And if you are a stay at home parent, vacation time can test your creativity and push up your guilt factor. What do you plan for them to do and is it your responsibility to make sure the kids are always entertained?
Here are some ideas that can make your summer enjoyable…even fun.
Routines are important during the school year. It helps get everyone off on time. But, they are as important in the summer. Giving some structure to the day helps the chaos factor. Getting the kids involved in planning the daily routines is a great idea.
If you work nearby, you might plan to come home at lunch several times during the week. Have the kids plan a lunch or even a picnic on those days. Meet at the park instead of at home.
Use family meetings to decide together how you will deal with household issues. If the kids are home all day, you aren’t going to be met with a spotless kitchen when you get home. Decide on a time when everyone can pitch in and straighten things up after you have engaged the kids with a hello, not who made this mess!
If your child has a special interest, this summer may be a good time to find a way to support her in exploring that interest. But, don’t let the guilt factor over schedule your kids because they are home alone. Kids, just like adults need time to ‘be’ without having to go to swimming lessons, soccer camp and violin lessons all in one day!
Don’t be afraid to hear, “I’m bored”. It’s not your job to be CEO of Entertainment. Exercising their ‘bored’ muscle is a great way to encourage their creativity. Sometimes having nothing to do sparks some very imaginative ideas.
Don’t be afraid to set limits on TV, computer use, video games and cell phones. It’s easy to use these electronic babysitters because they are so engaging. But kids need to be outside, play with friends and just sit on the couch.
Find ways to keep up their educational skills like reading and math. With a little imagination you can create fun ways to help kids continue to read over the summer and even do math. Have a family book club. Select books that everyone can read or by age. Get together and share what you are reading. Use household chores to enhance math skills. How much should we spend on groceries. Let’s measure your room for a new chest. How many eggs do we need to give everyone a 2 egg omelette?
This summer, you may be one of the families who may not be able to afford the traditional summer vacation. So, if this is your situation, get together as a family to research and plan what you can do that’s close to home. Look at it as an opportunity to spend quality time together without all the stress of traveling.
With a little effort and planning this summer could be one of the best!