Summer Survival Guide for Parents to Avoid Boredom, Stress, & Burnout

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It’s summertime!  Many parents anticipate summer break with a feeling of excitement and freedom, looking forward to lazy mornings spent sleeping in and relaxed evenings without homework pressures.  Released from the structure and schedule of the academic calendar, the whole family can look forward to fun activities at a more leisurely pace.  Maybe…

The novelty of summer days in the sprinkler and family vacations seems to wear off as siblings start bickering, temperatures heat up, and the whining puts nerves on edge.  Summer burnout seems to happen more quickly the younger or more demanding your children are.  Parents with bored kids home all day start fretting over how to keep the kids busy and entertained without all the fighting.  Or conversely, the busy summer camp & sports schedules can feel like just more of the chaotic running around that happens throughout the school year.  Either way, this is not the joyful, relaxing summer break you imagined.

While there is no simple solution for creating a pleasurable summer break for the whole family, there are some things parents can do to set a stage for success.

Create a daily routine.  While you may be tired of early mornings rushing to the bus and busy evenings full of activities, it is still important to have some sort of daily routine.  Focus on setting a fairly regular schedule for going to sleep, waking, and meals.  Keep it flexible based on the activities of the day and special events.  But it is stress reducing to maintain some regularity for kids and parents.

Plan regular activities for the kids.  You may want to explore summer camps to give your kids some stimulation or variety to their summer break.  But it’s also okay to forgo the camps and create regular activities such as weekly visits to the playground, local museums, the library, or pool.  Think about activities you enjoy as well as your kids.  Perhaps plan to meet up with some friends each week during these regular outings.  This provides some stimulation and predictability as well as an opportunity for social support.

Plan regular adult time for fun.  Make sure to set aside time for yourself.  The summer is an important time to pursue your own passions, connect with friends, and have regular date nights with your partner.  This adult time allows you to release stress and refill your energy tank for the next big pool day.

Make a list of summer activities as a family.  Consider making a sort of bucket list of activities each family member wishes to include in the summer.  This may be simple things like watching fireworks or bigger events like an amusement park, beach trip, or ball game.  Plan to accomplish just a couple things on this wish list, setting a realistically low bar.  That way you minimize the pressure to do it all and plan ahead for a few activities that will be summer highlights.

Come up with indoor activities to prepare for hot or rainy days.  There will inevitably be days that are simply too hot, muggy, or stormy to go outside for the usual summer activities.  So it’s helpful to plan ahead for indoor time just as you might during the summer months.  Think about an indoor obstacle course or scavenger hunt.  If you have a few ideas in your back pocket, you’ll be prepared with less stress.

Make use of childcare.  Many teenagers are happy to make a few dollars to help out with childcare.  You might have someone over to keep an eye on the kids while you’re in the house but need to get some projects accomplished.  This helper could accompany you to the pool to watch one kiddo while you play with the other.  And don’t be afraid to give yourself permission to take a day off now and then.  Parenting is hard work and we all need regular breaks.

Include downtime for everyone.  We all need to find a pace where we function best.  Some people can be active and run around most of the day while others need much more quiet or down time.  Respect your needs and the unique needs of your kids as you pace your days.  Allow some time to rest each day so you have the energy for all the other fun.

Set realistic expectations.  You already know your kids well.  You know if they are rigid, sensitive to heat, active, or need plenty of quiet time.  You also know yourself and what helps you be at your best.  You’ll feel most successful if you set your expectations for yourself and your family based on this knowledge.  So if you love going to a baseball game but worry your two young ones can’t handle all the walking, heat, and crowds, you might choose a minor league game and only stay for a few innings.  This helps set you up for success rather than disappointment.  You should probably also expect “fun family days” often end in disappointment and exhaustion.  Try to see those moments as part of the rich tapestry of family life rather than a failure.

Practice self-care.  The real key to creating a summer you can enjoy is to take good care of yourself.  Parents feel their best when they are rested and have chances to do what they love.  Practice stress management strategies and seek support.  This serves as a healthy example for your kids too.

Happy summer!

Written by Suzanne Smith, Ph.D. for the Linden Blog. If you are interested in receiving Linden Blog updates with original articles about parenting, families, mental health, and wellness, subscribe using the field below. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Dr. Smith at Linden BP call 440/250-9880.

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