When the final day of school is checked off the calendar, students and parents alike breathe a sigh of relief. Often parents look forward to flexible days, and students have visions of endless amounts of time to do absolutely nothing. In fact, the dream of lying in the sun by a pool or on the beach somewhere is so enticing that we imagine we could do it all summer long.
Then we relax and try it, and sometimes it isn’t even a day into the summer before we are dealing with boredom, fights, and a gradual disaster of half-started projects that can begin to take over the house.
Why is it that summertime can bring out the worst in children and their parents?
Because whether they know it or not, and believe it or not, they both thrive on structure.
If we aren’t careful, we have a mindset around the entire concept of structure that looks similar to an elephant being stuffed into a tiny birdcage. We want our freedom, and schedules are the shackles we think we must rid ourselves of to live our most relaxed and enjoyable life. If we have this attitude about summer for ourselves, then inevitably, our children will too. We teach more by our example than we do by our mouths.
What if it’s true that, whether it’s summer or not, children thrive on structure and some sort of routine? How do we create that without getting right back into a rigorous academic schedule?
Here are three ideas to help your family thrive through the summer months while maintaining a little routine and sanity.
3 Ideas to Help Your Family Thrive This Summer
1) The Joy Is in How You Think about It!
Parents usually fall into two categories when it comes to thinking of summer plans. Either we have unrealistic fantasy-size expectations of how glorious the summer months are going to be, or we have pessimistic assumptions of epic proportions of how hard it’s going to be without the structure of school to keep everyone busy.
The trouble is, either perspective sets the whole family up for failure. What if this year you could find your equilibrium? There will be some structure — in fact, most people are more creative and productive with a few deadlines and commitments along with some time off.
If we do not pay attention, we can get into a habit of thinking that joy is around the next corner, and thus not available right now. We think circumstances and situations must change, ramp up, settle down, or smooth out for joy to be available. This creates a habit of waiting for joy instead of experiencing it. Intentionally taking the chance to celebrate and enjoy life is a critical part of a habit of joy in all things. Choose joy today, at this moment, whether things are structured or not.
2) Keep It Simple
There are many different ways to apply this to your summer agenda, but the principle of keeping things simple is a wise one across the board.
Have chores you want the kids to do? Keep it simple. Choose the ones that matter most. We’ve often kept it to about five a day in our house, and half of those are personal hygiene.
Have some projects you hope to get done during the summer? Keep it simple. Outline the few you want to do most and schedule time to do them. Our family has completed many smaller tasks over the summer by having a one-hour work time five days a week where everyone pitches in to get various jobs done—mom included. Other times, we’ve had larger projects we wanted to work on that we scheduled one day a week or one week of the month. The bottom line is that having a limited time to work on it not only helped us be more productive with the time we had, but it also gave the younger children hope that their whole summer wasn’t going to be about work.
Do you have fun things you hope to do? Keep it simple. Trying to do everything on the bucket list can leave everyone feeling exhausted. Keep some downtime as a priority, and don’t forget some planning times for yourself for next year. We have a pool in our community and I keep fun simple by using my time there to work on the business, plan for next school year, or catch up on emails, all while supervising my children. That way, I’m more available when the kids want my attention at home. We plan one or two other outings a week and one bigger getaway during the summer. After that, it’s a chance to let the kiddos get bored. I often tell them boredom is an exciting moment because it’s a sign that excellent ideas are about to be discovered.
3) What If It Gets to Be Easy?
This idea of keeping things simple can apply to many areas: Menus can be repeated, the pool bag can stay loaded, and drinking water can be kept in the car. In my group coaching program, Supermom School, my clients know that many of these strategies are part of our summer routine simply because we ask the question, “What if it gets to be easy?”
When we think, “It can be easy,” our brains create new ideas that were not there before.
Maintaining school skills over the summer does not need to take hours of time each day. Five minutes of math review games or fifteen minutes of reading practice done daily will have a bigger impact than two hours done once a week. Consistency happens because no one is mentally avoiding feelings of torture that come with unreasonable expectations.
I’ve heard many parents say at the beginning of the summer season that their child is going to work on their schoolwork through the summer, and that lasts about two days.
How can you know if you have a healthy amount of work planned for your break times? If you look at the workload and think, “Hmm, that might be too easy,” then friend, you have hit the sweet spot!
There’s a common phrase in the life coaching world that says, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Thus the question for you today is, how are you handling today? What thoughts and attitudes are you entertaining? Do you want your summer days to be characterized by joy, ease, and productivity? Then today is the day to be the joy, ease, and productivity you want for the entire season! Let’s arrive at the beginning of fall refreshed and happy. This is the way.
About the Author
Mary Aldrich is a laser-focused life coach for women of all ages and an energetic homeschooling mom of seven. Mary’s passion is to help families who are longing for real joy, deeper relationships, and less overwhelm in their everyday life through coaching people through their conflicts. She is the founder of Supermom School, the Supermom School Podcast, and is an inspirational speaker and retreat leader.