Summer is on its way and soon kids will be out of school, if they aren’t already!
As much as this is an exciting time of the year, there is a lot of anxiety and worry that can happen for kids with this transition. (As well as for parents!) Even if kids aren’t able to verbalize what is happening for them, the change can be tough.
As I was out walking this morning, I thought of some ideas that can help you and your kids make the most of this exciting time of the year!
1) Structure. Kids have a lot of structure in their school days. Now I know at times this structure is what creates a lot of struggle for some kids! But the reality is there is something to be said for kids knowing where they are going to be, when they will eat lunch, who they will see and for the most part what the expectations are for them. I would try to set up some type of structure for your kids, regardless of their age. For younger kiddos, the more you want to have in place. Think of structure in terms of: jobs that need to be done each day, what you want your child to do for daily self care, when your child will read and write each week, when are the away from home activities, meal and bed times, just to name a few ideas.
2) Freedom. Thinking I am crazy, right? I just said structure, now I am suggesting freedom. One of the things I believe kids need more of is freedom to be kids! So yes, some structure is important, but allow kids time to play!! And they can find something to do. Don’t fall into the trap of “…but there is nothing to do!” and then you are suggesting a zillion ideas, while your child quickly dismisses each one. Sound familiar? Try to find BALANCE between scheduling sports, activities or camps with DOWN TIME. Spend time simply sitting around in the grass and talking. I believe the tendency to overbook the summer to “avoid” meltdowns or “I’m bored” doesn’t allow kids the time to just BE. And we ALL need more of this!
3) Lists. Make a list of ideas for the summer with your child! Let their creativity lead the charge! Some suggestions for lists:
Sunny day adventures – places to bike to, picnic spots, water gun games, obstacle courses, making a scavenger hunt
Rainy day indoor activities – puzzles, games, coloring books or mandalas, books to read together, crafts
Parks to visit – pull up a map and look at ALL the options we are lucky to have in DePere, Green Bay, Ashwaubenon, Appleton and the surrounding areas
Friends to invite over or go hang out with – get phone numbers and be ready to help your child break through their fears of maybe hearing “not this time”
Big ticket places to go – places that require $ like Bay Beach, New Zoo, Extreme Air, Sky Zone, The History Museum at the Castle, Children’s Museum, Neville Museum and many more
Projects to do to help around the house – (If kids feel some responsibility for helping, it can really build their self esteem!) a closet to clean out, toys to get rid of and donate, organize the pantry
Games you can teach your kids from your childhood – C’mon, you can remember! Kick the Can, Red Rover, Mother May I, HopScotch, Red Light Green Light to list a few
Meal ideas – lunches that excite your child – ones they can make, you can make and some to make together; baking wish list; kids make dinner for the family; fun & creative snack mixes
4) Expectations. It is essential kids know what your expectations for them are. Have the conversation, again. Do you want your child to be dressed by a certain time? What are your ideas on snacks and times? Time to be home each day? When is it ok to have friends over? How often can kids play on electronics? Watch tv? Have their phones? These are just a few ideas to get you thinking. Obviously it is summer and things change day to day. But the more you can set the expectations, with the understanding of flexibility, the less time spent arguing everyday. Balance is key between structure and freedom. What seems reasonable? What are your kids’ expectations for their summer?
5) Communicate. This is a key all year round, but it is never wasted time to focus on communication. Kids need to feel heard and know their opinions matter. When they have a say in making decisions, there is more buy-in. Yes, as a parent, you have the ultimate say! And you need to! But when you have a conversation with your child about any of the above ideas and they feel heard, it is going to make a difference. When things aren’t going as planned, sit down and talk when everyone is calm and able to listen (never in the heat of the moment!!). Use a “talking stick” so everyone gets a chance to talk and listen. Model rephrasing: “So what I heard you say, Billy, is…”
6) Gratitude. I can not stress enough the power of this one! I strongly encourage every family to create a GRATITUDE BOARD. Get a large piece of paper and post it where everyone can see it. Everyone in the family gets a different color marker (or colored pencil or crayon). Decide as a family if you will write on it at meal time, bedtime, morning, whenever the mood strikes or a combination. The key is to TALK about all that you have to be grateful for. Immerse yourself and your family in the energy of all the ways you are blessed. The more you focus on the positive, the more you tell the Universe, “We want more of this!” It’s easy to get caught up in the things that don’t go well. It isn’t about ignoring those. They happen – to all of us. But we get to choose if we want to focus on that or on what we want more of. Model for your children the little things in life that you know truly ARE the big things! I believe a lot of kids today need to see us showing gratitude for things like a thank you, a smile from a stranger, a kind gesture, the sunset, that you are healthy, getting a ride someplace, a good meal… Give it a try and watch how this shifts everything!
My hope is that as kids begin summer break, you take time to be proactive! Remember the importance of taking a deep breath and staying in your Authentic Self, so you can best speak to your kids from a loving place, versus a fear based one. This is a time to enjoy, celebrate and allow ourselves the time and space to relax and connect with one another! Let the summer fun begin!