Surviving summer

Parents should remember that not all screen time is bad. Photo: Khosrork

It’s the home stretch of another school year, and summer is so close I can almost feel it. Our high school kids have finished already, and we have a few more weeks of elementary school. After months of crazy schedules, we are all looking forward to some downtime this summer to relax and slow it down a bit. However, this “chill time” can easily go off the rails and become more stressful if we don’t put some expectations in place. Having a family meeting to discuss some house rules for summer is a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page from the start. This can be helpful for parents of all ages. With more free time and a more relaxed schedule, boundaries can get pushed but the relaxed vibe doesn’t have to apply to expectations around screen time, chores, or behavior. Here are some tips to keep summer fun so you don’t lose your mind:


Summer or not, skipping out on chores is not an option. In fact, it may be helpful to add a few more to the list because everyone is home more. The biggest one is to clean up after yourself, which includes putting your things away, cleaning up after making food, and leaving a space cleaner than you found it. I am very clear that as much as I love having everyone home more during the summer, I am not a maid, and it is not my job to clean up after everyone.

Summer is also a great time to get the kids more involved with other chores around the house that they may not always have time for during the year, such as yard work, dog duty, dusting, or vacuuming. This is a great time to work on those life skills they need to know such as how to clean their own bathroom, change their sheets, and mop a floor. It’s always amazing to see how much better they take care of things around the house if they know they are responsible for cleaning it up. 


Unless you want to spend your whole summer in a constant battle with a device, set limits and expectations early. We have a summer checklist of things that must get done before screen time is even an option. The checklist includes chores, exercise or outdoor time, and reading or math fact practice every day. Summer does not mean it is a screen time free-for-all — time limits are relaxed a bit but still exist. This also applies to teens who may seek the time to lie in bed and binge-watch their favorite show, and before you (or they) realize it has been hours. This may be O.K. once or twice but not weekly and not daily. I am a big proponent of keeping things in balance, so make sure they are balancing their online time with the offline activities they enjoy. Sometimes we as parents forget that time on screens isn’t all bad — it can be used for learning, creating, and staying in touch with friends. The key is to take the time to set limits, communicate them to your child, and then enforce them. 


Be respectful. This is a house rule all year round but becomes especially important when we are all home together more. The increased family time is one of the things I love most about summer, but it can quickly turn into a bickering fest, so it is important to remind your kids they need to be kind to each other. They also need to ask before borrowing or using someone else’s things. 

Some other behavior expectations are around sleep. For younger children, later bedtimes are part of the fun of summer but if there is camp or a family activity, those late bedtimes can leave everyone paying a price the next day. For our teens, staying up late is fine if it is not disruptive to others already in bed, and sleeping in is great but in moderation and not every day. I also try to be clear that if someone is going out or needs a ride, they need to ask and to check in. I am not a chauffeur but would be happy to help if it is planned. 

Summers are such a special time and as adults we know the meaning changes when you begin working full time, so it is fine to relax the rules a bit, slow down, and let our kids have some fun. The goal is to savor the sweet days of summer instead of pulling your hair out, counting the days until school starts again. This is all possible if we are clear and upfront early about our expectations.

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

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