Tips for Managing Kids’ Downtime This Summer

April 28, 2022

Do you sometimes lose your cool during Summer? Summer time is a tough time for parents!  Whether you work outside the home, work from home, or are a stay at home parent – it’s not easy! Parents who are juggling work demands, child- care struggles, all while meeting everyone’s needs (including their own) can easily become overwhelmed. Parents at home with the kids wrestle with being on call 24/7 – with lots of hours to fill with activity. Let’s take a look at both equally challenging situations:

Scenario #1: You are home during summer. The pressure’s on. You’re on duty from dawn to dusk – and your company is adorable, but demanding! Follow these tips to help everyone keep calm and to enjoy the time together:

  • Avoid micro-managing the day for your kids. Independent play is an important source of creativity for kids. 
  • Create structure. Kids love structure, and you’ll appreciate the bookends it provides, as well as the reduction in “what are we doing next” and “when’s lunch” questioning. 
  • Include some downtime. Even if your kids won’t nap, establish a period of time for books and rest. Be sure to use that time for yourself too. Don’t scurry to get laundry and dishes done. Take a break!
  • Get outside. Heading outdoors is the best solution for frustrated and/or grumpy kids – (and parents too).  Play in the backyard… go for a bike ride… Head to the park….
  • Playdates are a welcome change of pace. It also gives kids something to look forward to. If you can, take turns hosting the kids so one of the parents can have some kid-free time.
  • Take 10. It’s okay to walk away from a tense situation for a minute. Step away, gather your thoughts and release your anger with a count to ten. When you return to the situation you’ll be more effective and you’ll model a behavior you want from your kids.
  • Share frustrations – gently. No matter how hard you try, kids will still manage to get on your nerves. It’s neither a reflection of their character or your parenting. They simply lack the emotional development to understand their impact on you. When this happens, respond gently. Explain how what they are doing feels to you. This helps you, and it also helps your kids understand how their actions or words impacts others.

Summer time is far from relaxing if you work outside the home. Without the extra hours on hand normally spent in school, you’re left figuring out how to balance work and play, while keeping the kids safe. Care options vary based on age and your situation, but here are some points that will help, regardless of circumstance:

  • Reduce commitments outside of work. If you’re typically booked from morning to night, try to shed evening commitments, and any extras. If you can free some time up to relax with the kids when you get home, you’ll all enjoy the summer a lot more.
  • Form partnerships. If you have trusted friends in the same situation, share duties! Sign kids up for the same events, or camps, and take turns driving.
  • Recapture your lunch hour. Forget madly running errands at lunch. Instead, get moving. Take 20-minutes for a walk or jog and use the rest for a healthy bite. You’ll finish the work day in better spirits and transition to home life more smoothly.
  • Lower expectations. Your house needs to be sanitary, but does not need to be spotless and free of clutter all the time. If laundry piles up a bit, it’s okay. Consider the chores that consume your free time and think about cutting back for a while.
  • Ask for help. At some point you’ll run out of forks and clean towels. Assign older children some age appropriate duties to help out. Even toddlers can be happy folding washcloths. Take time each day and ask everyone to pitch in. (This might require you lower your standards, but it will be worth it. Be ready to praise the funky folding and sketchy sweeping.)
  • Send them to bed. A set bedtime is best for kids, and parents. It reduces grumpiness related to tiredness, and gives you a couple of hours of quiet time. Use that time for self-care, whether it’s time with your partner or a good book.

Everyone’s situation is different but one thing remains true – parents often feel guilty about taking time for themselves; but it’s one of the most important things you can (and should) do. Those who take time for self-care – whether it’s for exercise, lunch with a friend, or to work on a hobby – report feeling more present and patient with their kids.  

Still feeling guilty? Just remember, when you model that your needs are important (too), it models healthy behavior for your kids. Everyone wins!

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