With the end of the school year fast approaching, kids everywhere are counting down the days until summer vacation. If you find yourself looking forward to fall already, take heart, help is on the way. Follow these four tips to better enjoy your summer:
- Plan ahead. Sit down as a family now and set individual goals for each person. Include your kids in the process and they’ll be more invested in the outcome. School may be out, but summer can be a great opportunity for kids to develop both academic skills and outside interests. For example, you might encourage your child to read for half an hour every day, to start music lessons, or to exercise at least five times per week. To keep everyone motivated, make a list of fun activities as rewards. Schedule several special family days now and mark your calendar. Otherwise, it’s too easy to let the weeks go by and never have that picnic in the park or day at the beach that you’ve talked about.
- Once you’ve outlined your goals and weekly schedule, the next step is to establish daily routines. Sure, summer is a great time for just relaxing and enjoying some well-deserved “down time,” but if you don’t want your kids to sleep until noon or play video games all day, make your expectations clear from the beginning. It’s easier to loosen up later than to try to impose rules after your kids have gotten used to free reign. And it’s not just bedtimes and mealtimes. Summer is the perfect time to start kids on regular chores. Make a daily schedule and post it for all to see.
- While it’s crucial to be consistent, also allow some wiggle room for spontaneity. Summer camps and trips are great, but if your kid has something scheduled every day they may miss the chance to enjoy creative free play opportunities. So, go ahead and make plans, but leave some days open for unexpected adventures and fun.
- To make the most of the summer, tap into your inner child and let loose a little yourself. Think back to your happiest childhood summer memories. Did you love playing baseball with the neighborhood kids? Organize a game and get everyone involved. If you can, take advantage of relaxed summer schedules and leave work early to go for a bike ride in the park. Don’t let a tight budget or limited vacation time cramp your style. If you can’t take a whole week off to go camping, spread out your sleeping bags in the backyard and make smores. Is a trip to the waterpark not in the budget this year? Turn on the sprinkler, break out the water balloons and create your own water fun at home for next to nothing. Sometimes the simpler joys are the most memorable. With a little planning and some creativity, this could be your best summer yet.
Karen Meteyer, PhD was a staff therapist at Franco Psychological Associates, PC before re-locating to New Hampshire.