Summer break is a little over half-way done. Are you hanging in there mama? Remember when the kids first got out of school and summer break was filled with much anticipation? Has that fun excitement gone on vacation and summer doldrums taking up residence at your house?
So how’s it really going? At my house some days can be unbearable like the hot sticky weather. We have issues with boredom, fighting between brothers and sisters, and extreme laziness. In these moment I dig out tools I used to use for similar situations when I worked as a counselor to help my own kids.
I’m sharing these tips with you as a new and improved summer survival guide for moms to help you get through the last part of summer break. With these tips it will be like taking a nice dip in a refreshing pool.
Summer Break Phases
Do you notice how summer break has phases, where things start off all rosie but slowly go down hill? Routines and rules are easily followed but then kids start resisting or rebelling.
Honeymoon Phase Of Summer Break
When my kids first got out of school I published a post on surviving the summer and having a great time with kids. I was excited to have them home with me and envisioned things like lazy hazy days. Warm breezes wafting through the air. Carefree trips to the park. Endless ice cream cones. Late laughter filled nights catching fireflies. Memorable family vacations. Have you had some of those experiences? If so, great!
I created visuals for our daily routine, summer chore charts and an incentive program. The first few weeks the kids did a good job following everything on the sheets.
My kids eagerly went outside to hop on their bikes or play ball. They looked forward to outings to the park, even running errands weren’t met with complaining. They played with their toys!
Then it started. “I don’t want to do that,” at suggestions on going on an outing. “Can I play on the Ipad?” for the 100th time even though they were told no. And the classic “Mom I”m boooored.”
Doldrum Phase Of Summer Break
We’ve reached the point in our break where our vacation has come and gone. Soccer camp is completed, baseball is winding down. My offspring are in a playground group that meets daily, but it’s been rained out a lot this year.
Summer doldrums have set in. Kids get into little tiffs. Screen-time is more desirable than riding bikes. The chore charts and incentives don’t mean a thing. The summer routine is thrown out the window. Oh, the daily battles! Can you relate?
I’m also met with a new resistance, my older kids aren’t interested in doing things we used to do in summers past. They snub their nose at going for daily walks through the neighborhood. Splash pads are too babyish for them they say. Going to see the free entertainment at the library is met with eye rolls. I realize they are getting older, but it’s been difficult to come up with ideas that they do like.
How do you deal? Here is your summer survival guide to get your kids out of their funk so you can get through the last part of summer break.
Summer Survival Guide For Moms
This isn’t a list of fun activities or ideas to keep your kids entertained. This guide is all about breaking through the boredom, putting out the fire between sibling squabbles, and dealing with resistance to do stuff other than screen time. You got this mama! Here’s how:
“Mom, I’m booooored!” blares in your ears on a daily basis, waking you up from summer day dreaming. When you hear that do you get the urge to whip out Pinterest and look up activities to keep your youngsters entertained? What if you just let them be bored? As in, it’s okay to let them have nothing to do.
Instead of looking at boredom as a bad thing, look at it as a good thing. In fact give boredom a new name, like unstructured time. Kids typically have much of their time scheduled between school, sports and other activities. When they have free-time though they lack the skills to entertain themselves. Let’s teach them those skills.
Unstructured time has benefits. According to Aha Parenting, experts say it’s essential for children to have the experience of deciding for themselves how to use periods of unstructured time, or they’ll never learn how to use their time. Maybe even more important, unstructured time gives children the opportunity to explore their inner and outer worlds, which is the beginning of creativity. This is how they learn to engage with themselves and the world, to imagine and invent and create.
When my kids come to me looking for something to do, instead of spoon-feeding them ideas I declare it is free choice time and send them to their rooms, backyard or playroom. The kids need to see what they can find on their own first before they come to me. They may mope initially, but after a few minutes can be found digging something out from their closet and playing.
If they are occupied for awhile then I leave them be. If they float from one thing to the next and are struggling to come up with an activity on their own then I step in and help them figure out what to do. Typically I get out their favorite toy or book and they are good to go. They just need to be pointed in the right direction.
The key to beating boredom is to give kids unstructured free time where they can come up with ideas on their own that spark their interest.
Squelch Sibling Squabbles
“Hey that’s mine!,” “Leave me along,” “I’m telling mom!” These and similar quotes are like nails on a chalk board. There are days I feel like the constant bickering is the soundtrack to my life. I must admit there are many times when I’m tempted to give them a taste of their own medicine and fight back and yell at my kids to stop. Admittedly there are times when I do.
My kids don’t learn anything from getting yelled at. In fact countering fighting with fighting only teaches them that it’s acceptable behavior.
I want my children to learn to get along, and show each other love and kindness. Being the parent means I have to model that behavior even when I don’t feel like it. If they are not allowed to yell and fight how much merit does that rule have if I do it?
Sibling arguments are inevitable and will happen. The things we teach them now won’t put an end to the quarreling overnight. Over time with patience and consistency hopefully children will remember not to fight and instead resolve the problem or let the issue go.
We often tell our kids to put each other first because, as the bible teaches, last is first and first is last. We also remind them to love others more than themselves. All of these hopefully teach them humbleness and selflessness. Doesn’t it seem like the root of fighting kids stems from selfishness? All of this looks and sounds good, but how do you put that into practice with kids?
I like to combat fighting with love. So, I have my kids do things to show love towards one another. Some of these ideas come from a great book Creative Correction by Lisa Welchel. This book offers a lot of unique ideas for disciplining children other than time-outs or scolding. Check out the book here: Creative Correction
Here are some specific ideas to lessen the tension between brothers and sisters:
- Team work: When kids are at each other’s throats especially over competitive things I give them a project that needs to completed together. Ideas include cleaning up the toy room, picking up sticks in the yard, coloring a picture, or putting a puzzle together. The task doesn’t have to be complicated or require a lot of prep work or materials. The idea is for them to work together and be able to see a tangible end result so they can see how two is better than one and appreciate each other’s help.
- Make them love on each other: If my kids are saying things like “I hate you” or being really mean to each other I make them smother each other with love. It may sound weird or corny, but it often diffuses tempers and brings out laughter. Sometimes they need to sit on the same couch cushion while watching TV. Other times they need run towards each other from the opposite sides of the room or yard and hug.
- Give them space: Ever notice how kids still hang out with each other even though they are driving each other crazy? I don’t get it. There are times when my kids lash out with each other because they have spent too much time together. When this happens I thinks it’s a good time to schedule play dates with friends or have them find activities to do apart from each other.
When you create opportunities for siblings to work together as a team and express love they will develop a deeper appreciation for the other person. Fighting will still occur, but putting a stop to the squabbles will be easier when kids have meaningful relationships with each other. They will be better equipped to see how the other person may feel hurt or understand that getting their own way isn’t worth the fight.
Stop the “I Don’t Wanna”
Have you ever planned a field trip or fun activity only to be told by your child “I don’t wanna?” This type of reluctance is a new one for me this year. I’m realizing that the things we used to do no longer holds their interest as they get older (sniff sniff.) I also remember when I was young I went through phases where I just wanted to be lazy and watch TV all day, my kids have reached that age too.
To combat this problem I have shifted some of the responsibility to my kids to pick things they would like to do. We usually have it on our schedule to go on an outing once a week so my kids know that is what is on the agenda for the day. At the beginning of the summer we made a list of activities they would like to do. I guess you could call it a bucket list. The day before our outing I let them pick something off the list. Having my kiddos make the choice rather than me declaring it helps them look forward to going on the outing because it’s something they want to do.
To balance out the lazy aspect of not wanting to do anything I generally keep the day after a field trip agenda free. I’m a bit more lax on the amount of time screen time they get. As an adult I like to have a day of nothingness, so do kids. I find when they have a day of unstructured time built into the week it helps lessen the begging for screen time or resistance to do things during the rest of the week.
Giving the kids the ability to express their wishes and have a say in what is going on helps them feel like they will get to do something they want to do and puts a stop to all of the complaining. Further, giving them time to just chill also seems to combat the desire of not wanting to go somewhere.
Get Through The Last Part Of Summer Break
Soon enough the kids will be back in school and normal routines will be re-established. In the mean time I hope these ideas will help you get through the last part of summer break. Since the kids are on break go easy on yourself too. Yes it’s important to make sure your kids are behaving in the way you want them to behave. However if your youngsters stay-up or sleep-in late, watch too much TV, or eat too much junk food don’t feel bad that they got to over indulge in things from time to time.
I used to stress if my kids didn’t get their daily book reading time in or didn’t eat enough fruit and veggies. When I got stressed out my kids would stress out and then act out. No one had a good time. When I let my hair down a bit and relaxed my kids and I enjoyed each other a lot more.
The key here is flexibility. Keep your standards up but be open to letting them down from time to time and don’t feel guilty about it either.
I hope these ideas will help you work through the muck that can come up in the summer with your kids. You can survive the summer even in the hot sticky moments! Here’s to getting through the last part of summer break!