I want summer to slow down and it has barely started.There are a lot of "shoulds" in my head right now. Day camp sign ups, dates to coordinate with friends, and I am struggling. Partly because of all the decisions. I am tired, we are moving, and I am wrapping up from the school year; but part of it is also the fear of the summer plans taking over causing me to miss out on lazy mornings, giggles in the pool, and the spontaneous. Summer itself brings anticipation. A promise of having some down time, catching up with friends and family, and getting away; but these best laid plans can monopolize the months and we are left wondering where summer went. Similar to the times when you are asked about your weekend and you can't remember what you did. It wasn't that it didn't include fun events but there was little presence or consciousness to it, rather more of a momentum, like it happened to us. I don't want summer, or life to happen to me and my family. I want to be there.
Here are seven ways to keep summer fun and stress free:
Katie Hurley, author of The Happy Kid Handbook says that when we are “over-scheduled and under-slept, all systems go down.” She suggests looking at the calendar and finding what should stay and go from the list of well intentioned activities. I often tell clients that their to don't list is as important as their to do. This can be key for summer too.
Sometimes the over-scheduling is born from anxious thoughts that if our children aren't in everything the neighbours are in then they are missing out. We operate from a position that we, the summer, the plans, the memories are not enough. This might cause us to make it into a busy, stressful and less enjoyable summer. Take a deep breath and ask yourself what your values and desires are for your children and then analyze if adding another lesson or camp is really a positive plan or if it is coming from a position of fear.
Author Susan Newman states that in this fast-paced competitive world the quest to provide more and more for our children with vacations, presents, and perfect memories can become over the top. Not that surprisingly, it is the little things they remember from summer. The little things are certainly what I remember from my childhood... eating popsicles on the steps or biking with friends. Spending time together is enough for your family bond. Newman urges us to let go of the pressure to make “picture perfect memories.”
Play is important for creativity, learning, relationships and mental health. Letting children free play helps them tap into their imaginations, practice empathy, learn about themselves, become problems solvers, works on resiliency and practice self control. These are important skills, many of which tie into self regulation, one of the biggest predictors of success for children, beating out SAT scores and IQ tests.
Boredom is good for your child, in fact most parents crave such time for ourselves. Boredom allows kids to have that space to think and become. As Psychologist Dr. Vanessa Lapointe points out, boredom needs to be reframed as a good thing.
Limiting screen time can open up connected family time. How often do we see families sitting around a table each on their phones? Or in separate rooms of the house watching Netflix? We are missing out. Hands Free Mama Rachel Macy Stafford states “We must invite each other to the common areas of our lives. We must not stay closed up, separated, and disconnected.” Make a new rule to have your devices in a common area and encourage times of unplugging and connecting making room for imagination, spontaneous conversation, cooperation, ideas and hugs.
The new normal of summer can mean more time together and it also mean more instruction from you. You might feel like the task master trying to keep everything afloat. Self reflection might reveal areas you can let go of. Dr. Jessica Michaelson says “you must believe that you are good and worthy and safe even when there is work left undone.” And you are, so rest in that and allow the crumbs to fall where they may, and that might be literally!
So let be present be the summer mantra for your family. For a truly enjoyable summer we need to practice this mindfulness, keep ahold of ourselves, harness the momentum and focus on what our summer values are.