By Joanna Teigen, Crosswalk.com
Summer is so close, we can almost taste the popsicles. We’ve survived months of early mornings, homework drama, and the never-ending grind of packing lunches. Our kids know the freedom waiting on the other side of final exams, field days, and awards banquets. Yet while our kids dream of sleeping in and splashing by the pool, we feel a sense of dread as moms and dads.
We worry, How long until they’re whining, “I’m bored!” How will we survive without a routine? Will the kids just bicker and fight all day? How do I pry their hands off my tablet? What if their brains evaporate by the end of summer? We wonder if a season of fun and deep connection as a family is out of reach.
The beginning of summer break can prove our fears true. The adjustment from school to home can get messy. Here are seven ways to smooth the transition to a fantastic summer for your family:Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock
1. Follow a routine.
Change is tough on all of us, especially our kids. Hang onto your regular bedtime to avoid late nights and grumpy mornings. Follow a set meal schedule so you’re not on-call for snacks every five minutes. If you were reading for 20 minutes every night for Ms. Teacher, keep reading 20 minutes every night. Hold to your usual screen time limits and chore lists. Keeping the regular flow to your days—at least at first—heads off tired, moody kids. They’ll feel secure, too, knowing set boundaries are still in place. A predictable routine cuts stress and worry down to size.
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2. Create personal space.
Summer throws families into 24-7 togetherness. It can take time for our kids to reacquaint as friends and playmates. As parents, we’ll burn out on the noise, clutter, and constant questions kids bring our way. Build in a daily block of time for everyone to go to their own quiet space, alone. Designate one room in the house as a tech and toy-free zone where you can breathe. Taking a break to dial down the energy will restore some peace and order to your house.
3. Give the kids a voice.
Kids feel stressed if they don’t know what’s coming at them. Give them a chance to take part in making plans. Each son and daughter can choose what’s on the menu for the week, a “Fun Friday” activity, or a film for movie night. Give them a vote when assigning jobs on the chore chart. Let them organize a backyard campout, send invitations for a weekend barbecue, or set up a park date with friends. Inviting your kids to share their opinions and ideas will get them excited for the weeks ahead.
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4. Less is more.
It’s easy to pack summer days with swim lessons, sports camps, art classes, and open-gym hours. In our zeal to offer enrichment and build their skills, we take away our kids’ chance to learn and grow at their own pace. Summer offers a few weeks for kids to be curious and creative. To develop self-sufficiency by making their own fun. To be still and content without constant busyness. As you make plans and commitments for your kids, invite God to show you what will bless their hearts and minds the most.
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5. Work before play.
Just like you were up and at ’em during the school year, start your day in action. Have the kids keep the habit of getting dressed early before summer is one long pajama day. Bust out the to-do list (and throw in a little on-the-job training in laundry, kitchen cleanup, and yard work). Use some brain-building tools to keep math and reading alive in their minds. Tackle errands while you’re all feeling fresh. Getting mundane tasks out of the way frees you up to enjoy the reward of having fun.
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Put down the tech and pick up the sidewalk chalk. Invent new recipes for fruity smoothies in the kitchen. Start a rock collection on a nature walk. Snuggle up to read stories on the couch. Grab a shovel to dig in the garden. Set the kids loose with some tape, scissors, and a giant cardboard box. Get soggy in the driveway washing the car or throwing water balloons. Catch fireflies and gaze at the stars. Earn some pocket change with a lemonade stand. Set aside your devices and create space to create and explore together.
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7. Dig deeper.
Time is a gift. The slower pace of summer allows extra hours to connect with God. It’s the perfect season to read the Word and stories of faith as a family. You can create prayer journals and talk to God together. Set a goal to memorize a Bible passage by the time school rolls around again. Volunteer in your church or community to put love in action.
If a hectic school year left you feeling far apart, plan plenty of one-on-one time with your kids. Plan a weekly trip for fro-yo just to talk and catch up. Take your son or daughter along while you run errands. Hear their heart during early morning walks while the family is still sleeping. Just listen. Make eye contact. Give undivided attention that says, “You’re the most important thing in my world right now.” The trust and closeness you build over the summer can prepare you all for what’s ahead in the new school year.
Some careful planning, a sense of normalcy, and plenty of time together makes for a sweet start to summer for everyone. As you celebrate the finish of a full school year, you can anticipate the priceless memories to come.
How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you. (
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (
Joanna Teigen and her husband Rob have shared over 25 years of marriage and life with five kids, plus a lovely daughter-in-law. They’re a neat-freak married to a mess, an explorer to a homebody, and an introvert to a “people person.” But they agree their vows are for always, children are a gift, and prayer changes everything. Joanna is the co-author of Powerful Prayers for Your Son, Mr. & Mrs.: 366 Devotions for Couples, and a variety of other resources for couples and parents. She looks forward to meeting you at growinghometogether.com.