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Slowing down summer: Fighting the urge to overplan

Unstructured downtime helps kids relax and rejuvenate. Photo: monkeybusinessimages

This moment in time is one we worked hard for, but also one that truly feels like it would never arrive. For now, most of life has returned to pre-Covid normal with summer camps and activities in full swing. With the excitement and anxiousness of normalcy also comes an overwhelming feeling as a parent to make up for lost time. If you are like I am, you are fighting the strong temptation to provide additional schooling, extra programming, and even vacations packed with activities. We want to give our kids everything they lost last year all at once, but really what they may need is the time and space to slow down and decompress. Even for kids who were in school, the mental health impacts of living through a global pandemic have resulted in rising levels of stress and anxiety. So how do we fight the urge to overschedule, overplan and just let our kids be kids this summer? Here are some tips to help them slow down.

ALLOW FOR DOWNTIME

Life in a pandemic wasn’t all bad. It took some getting used to, but eventually we learned to enjoy and appreciate the extra time and slower schedules. Instead of running all over for sports games or activities, there was time for long walks, great hikes, and puzzles. Our family also never missed virtual mass each Sunday. So there were positives, and as the world reopens, we need to make sure to carve out the downtime that we grew accustomed to enjoying. Allowing for some unstructured time helps our kids and ourselves relax and rejuvenate. It also still allows time for sibling bonding and space for creativity, which were also silver linings of the pandemic. 

STEP AWAY FROM THE SCREENS

We have all spent so much time in front of screens over the past year and a half. We have used them for work, school, exercise, and to connect with each other. The technology in some ways may have helped us learn to be smarter about how we work, learn, and play. I know there were many nights I didn’t miss having to find a babysitter and parking to attend a meeting but rather could log on while cooking dinner. But it has been a lot, and my eyes are telling me that as I have noticed a decline in my eyesight — could be age, could be all the screen time. The same goes for our kids. So now it is time to help them put down the devices, step away from social media, and begin to socialize and connect again in person. We got a trampoline during Covid to get the kids outside more, and it has been the best thing. It also seems to be a big hit when friends come over. It has been a fun and physical way to deal with some of the stress or any awkwardness reconnecting with friends. 

GET OUT AND PLAY

I think we can all agree that our parks and playgrounds truly helped us survive Covid. There has been a new or renewed appreciation for the importance of these in our city. We also know the mental health benefits that getting outside in nature can have. It allows us to feel a connection to something greater than ourselves. It can serve to decrease stress and anxiety and is a wonderful way to discover new neighborhoods. Several new playgrounds opened during Covid, and I strongly encourage you to explore them with your kids this summer. They are creative and inventive, and that kind of unstructured play can bring just as much joy to the kids playing as the parents watching.

Remember, a full schedule is not always the best schedule, so allow your kids time for a pick-up basketball game, a baseball game at the beach or pickle ball at the new Golden Gate Park Tennis Center. This is what our kids have been missing and craving — their friends and a connection to each other without the fear of a global deadly virus. 

Surviving the pandemic has been exhausting emotionally and mentally. We all had to worry about so much on top of the stresses of everyday life. This takes a lot of energy, so give yourself and your kids the gift of slowing down. Remember, our kids aren’t the only ones who need time to heal. It’s been a heck of a year to be a parent, so we need to help them and ourselves find the time and space to heal, recover, and rejuvenate. 

Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive conversations around social media and technology. [email protected]

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