No school, lighter schedules, and fewer responsibilities can mean more idle time- much different from our usual, busy routines. Couple this with hot weather, and kids can become bored, tired, irritable, and so on. Summer is a time for fun and relaxation, but it can get to be too much- and long before school returns in August or September. Though it seems like things can go from one extreme to the other, this need not be the case. Here are some tips to make summer more balanced and enjoyable for the whole family.
1. Plan more family time. This doesn’t just mean take a week’s vacation to the beach or a few long weekends. Do that if you can, but take advantage of lighter schedules and include more family meals, day trips, or spontaneous outings to get ice cream, a bite to eat, or to see a movie. These activities need not cost money! Any time spent together is valuable, so you can also take a walk, go to a park, have a catch, or camp out in the back yard. Keep in mind time for parents, too. If you’re able, don’t be afraid to get a babysitter now and then to enjoy some time without the children.
2. DON’T plan some time. Although some of us feel like we have a lot to fit in over the summer, try not to plan every minute of every day. Be sure to have down time and to stop and enjoy it. Kids also need this- to relax, and to allow them time to be creative and to find their own activities, rather than their parents planning everything.
3. Get involved. Summer means camps for many families, whether it’s day or overnight. This may be a necessity for childcare, to keep kids from getting bored, or just for fun. If possible, try not to sign up for camp every week. And if your child is going to overnight camp, try to include ample time at home this summer, too. See #2 above! And for day camps, try to mix it up if you can. Use this as a time for your child to try different sports or activities, to spend time with different peers, or in different environments. There are plenty of other activities too, at libraries, community centers, YMCAs, and so on.
4. Limit screen time. More free time can mean more screen time for many children. Most of today’s kids enjoy this, and it’s easy to do. But, it can get to be too much if you’re not careful. Try to limit screen time to a set amount per day (2 hours is recommended). Be flexible though. You may allow more on rainy days, when your child is not feeling well, or on days with a lot of travelling. Encourage your child to spend time outside, with other children, or doing something not involving electronics- like reading, artwork, riding a bike, or playing with toys.
5. Keep learning. Just because school is out doesn’t mean that our brains need to be! Pick up some books from the library, play educational games, or take trips to museums, farms, aquariums, and the like. You can also incorporate this into screen time, by watching educational shows. And doing any of these things together creates more family time.
There are, of course, many more options, but remember that balance is key. A good mix of different activities, and structured and unstructured time, will help everyone to enjoy the summer more, and it should be less stressful for all.
Dr. Jesse Matthews is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Chester Springs, PA. He helps people of all ages to address many kinds of issues. You can view his Psychology Today profile here. For any questions or to arrange an appointment, please contact him at 610-482-4496 or firstname.lastname@example.org.