Summer Renewal and Fun with Family Contributions and Healthy Boundaries
“Mom, what do you really want to do this summer?” my son asked me during our bedtime pillow talk last night. I had to think. I wanted my summer sunshine dreams of lemonade stands, library visits, and creeking at local parks to roll off my tongue but instead, my mind was a-jumble.
In our race to the finish line of school, my head was swimming with work agendas and teacher recognition tasks to complete. It wasn’t easy to get my mind quickly focused on summertime fun though that’s precisely the hope of my ten-year-old boy. And as I attempt to, waves of anxiety tend to rush through my veins as I figure out the windows of time in which I can accomplish work during those sunny summer days in the midst of playtime.
I know, though, that if I take some time over the coming weeks to do some collective summer dreaming while establishing some “lightweight” routines, our summer will be filled with cooperation, shared responsibility, and opportunities for those precious moments of spontaneity — the ones that I truly want to define our summer.
So with that in mind, here are the ways in which we’ll establish a foundation for fun. Perhaps some of these tips will help your household enjoy the summer as well.
Take Time for Sunny Summer Dreaming.
Grab a poster board or newsprint and brainstorm together a list of favorite activities you want to be sure and get in over the summer. Separate into “at home” and “out.” Make sure there are some ideas that can be done as solo play away from digital devices. Hang it on the refrigerator or somewhere you can refer to it throughout the summer. This serves as a terrific way to anticipate the fun of summer and can be an invaluable support for pointing to when your child comes to you bored and unsure of how to spend his/her time. I’ve done this every summer with great success. This summer, my son took the initiative himself without prompting and wrote out thirty-five ideas for summer fun!
Talk about Your Routine “Lite.”
Though you may be eager to relinquish the rigor of the daily school routine, children still thrive with some sense of predictability. So talk about changes in your routine while your family is together. Consider your morning, bedtime and meal times and other transitions in the day. How will things stay the same? How will things change? Perhaps, you’ll agree that getting dressed should happen by a certain time in the morning? Perhaps, this is the time you’ll teach your child how to make her own delicious breakfast or lunch each day? Having this discussion can help set expectations for the summer and also provide that sense of stability children can thrive on through routines.
Set Up a Regular Quiet Reading Time.
Sure, you may be out of the house some days during a typical quiet time. But consider assigning a particular time of day to serve as a quiet time whenever you are around the house. After lunch could work, late afternoon or right before dinner. Turn off devices and media. Haul out blankets and books. You could include snacks. But it should be a time when all in the household “power down” and take it easy. Set the expectation for this at the beginning of summer and kids will assume it’s part of their summer routine.
Create a Simple Camp or Pool Checklist
Is there a place you tend to go daily in the summertime whether it’s day camp or a pool? Make sure you’ve set up your children for success in getting ready and out of the door with ease. Create a simple checklist together of what’s consistently needed. Bug spray? Check. Sun tan lotion? Check. Water bottle? Check. Use a dry erase board and kids can actually check off items each day. It will help them take responsibility for their own preparation and you won’t have to become the summertime nag!
Discuss Responsibilities and Consider Adding a Job List
Hopefully, your children understand their household responsibilities throughout the year. But anytime there is a transition, it’s a good moment to revisit. And you may consider one added responsibility to contribute to the household that’s age-appropriate since there tends to be more time in the summer. In addition, if you’re child is eager to earn money but too young to go out and get a job, you may consider putting together a list of jobs beyond their typical responsibilities such as, sweeping the first floor carpet for a $1.00. This will add to their practice of taking responsibility for jobs and offer a chance for your child to earn money this summer while helping you out! Consider a time when you do chores and offer that time for all family members to work together.
Talk about Screen Time Limits and Expectations.
Avoid a daily battle or the chance your child might become addicted to screens and not flourish through multiple activities this summer beyond screens. Learn as a family the reasons why it’s important to limit screen time. Focus on the positive benefits of using time in other ways. Then, be clear together about what limits you’ll agree upon.
Have a teen in your household?
Seeking Jobs including Volunteer Opportunities
In addition to sleep-away camp, you might want to expose your teen to the world of work to get some job experience, make some money, and discover the responsibilities and commitments required of an employee. You might consider together the places that your son or daughter visits that he/she loves and then ask about employment. Perhaps it’s her favorite ice cream shop (that’s where I worked) or perhaps it’s the world’s largest train display (yep, that’s where our son is working!)… Finding a place and environment that already gives your teen joy will help engage them in the learning and hard work that is required of a new entry level job. Don’t forget that volunteering their time is equally valuable in discovering their ability to contribute to others, developing important job skills and logging experience for their resume that will help them acquire future jobs.
Establishing Boundaries Together
Since our teens are keenly aware of fairness and justice, they can hold us accountable when it comes to the rules and routines that govern their lives. If we are arbitrary or inconsistent, they call us out on it immediately. They may feel we are too strict or unfair as we set up boundaries to keep them safe and healthy. Yet, our teens require our support and guidance particularly as they gain more independence with their friends. Sitting down creating a sacred time and space to talk about some of those boundaries is a great way to ensure that they feel you are taking into consideration their feelings and offering them fairness as you take their input into consideration about the subject. Whether its a curfew in the evenings or a limit on online gaming, discussing it together can help your teen take responsibility for their own actions.
The warmer weather brings about so many opportunities for laughter and exploration together. May your summer be filled with those kinds of magical moments with your family!