Caring For Our Kids

Summer lessons learned: Looking back on what worked

Siblings bonding over a game of cards photo: woodleywonderworks / flickr

It’s hard to believe in just a few short weeks school will be starting again. Summer always seems to come and go like the blink of an eye. Each is so different, bringing surprise adventures and new challenges. I find it helpful at the end of each summer to take time to reflect on the activities we did, places we went, and most important, what worked and what didn’t. This month, I thought I would share some of those thoughts with you.

Be organized but don’t over plan. It can be a little daunting to think of having the children home all day for the whole summer; therefore, we may feel the need to over plan or “book them out” for weeks at a time. This summer, I realized that allowing some weeks for camp and some off weeks created a perfect balance. We made a bucket list of things we wanted to do: peach picking, Giants game, and bowling were tops on the list. I also made sure to allot time for some of those lazy summer days that kids need. The school year is all about routine and so scheduled that it’s nice for everyone — parents included — to have a leisurely morning in their pajamas or to find a neighbor and play catch.

Share being the social chair. Summer does require a bit of planning so everyone is not staring at each other everyday going crazy. For me, one of the hardest things is that I have to force myself not to become the “cruise director” in charge of everyone’s entertainment everyday. To combat the “what are we doing today?” question, I loved surprising my children by letting each of them plan a day. We ventured to the Academy of Sciences, different parks, and the library. All simple and wonderful excursions we don’t have enough time for during the year. I also think summer is a great time to bend some of the rules, and as the social chair you can do this. Summer is all about building lasting memories, so don’t be afraid to let your children stay up late every once in a while, go for a night swim on vacation, or even surprise them with a trip to the ice cream parlor.

It’s OK to be bored. In our house, it didn’t take but a few days of summer before I heard, “I’m bored” for the first time. My sister has a great response to this, so I quickly adopted it: “Only boring people get bored, and you are not boring.” As parents, sometimes when we hear our children say this, we feel the need to solve their problem by suggesting things for them to do or even putting a screen in front of them. It was a bit challenging at first, especially for my son who immediately thinks if he is not playing a game on the iPhone or iPad, he is bored. When you take the electronics away and give them time, children can get very creative with ways to entertain themselves. I loved watching my daughter curl up with a good book or my son build a fort in the living room. There were even a few times they bonded over their boredom and found something to do together like playing a card game or kicking around the soccer ball.

Summer time is supposed to be relaxing and filled with fun, but it can also be a bit stressful. I hope these tips come in handy for either the last few weeks of this year or you may even tuck them away for next year. In the meantime, try to avoid cramming in a summer’s worth of fun in these last few weeks. Start now to ease back into a school-time routine — less screen time, earlier bedtime, and maybe less sugary snacks. Trust me, you will thank yourself later.

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Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children. She was formerly a television producer in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. E-mail: [email protected]