Few times of the year are more exhilarating for kids than early summer. No school! Swimming! Camp! Kick the Can! Popsicles! All life’s bounty in a three month period.
But for parents, the excitement is often replaced with…dread. And stress. And frustration.
Especially for working parents, the summer juggle, with its constantly changing schedules, can be far from fun or relaxing.
However, one of the most neglected parts of parenting is the need to show your kids how rewarding parenthood can be – not how annoying. Because unfortunately, kids tend to take our negative messages personally. Few parents want kids to remember summer as that time of year that drove their parents crazy. It’s at times tricky, but worthwhile, to be realistic with kids about the challenges of parenthood, without communicating “you guys are such a burden,” especially in summer.
So here are some tips from other parents who’ve survived – and thrived amidst– the summer chaos:
- Break your parenting rules. Summer is an ideal time to ease up on parental dogma, because everything you do is temporary. Let the kids go to bed late. Let them sleep in if you can. Have them eat cereal or pizza for breakfast.
- Hire a temporary babysitter. Forget about the seasoned, longterm, uber-responsible caregiver you’d employ for years. A fun, energetic college or high school student is perfect for taking the kids to the park, spraying them with the hose in the yard, finding the energy and creativity to come up with creative field trips for a few weeks in the summer.
- Negotiate with your employer. Summer is the ideal time to try out your employer’s flextime rules, and because you’re going to pitch the change as temporary, it’s hard for any boss to nix your suggestions. If you make up the time with a shortened lunch hour, cover during a colleague’s vacation, or work from home at night, can you arrive a half hour late for the summer? Take off an hour early? Work half day Fridays? Take a few random vacation days? It puts more summer fun in your life and your kids will love the extra time with you; plus your boss gets a happier, more loyal employee.
- Negotiate with your kids. Get your kids to brainstorm about what they most want summer to feel like. Find out what they’re willing to do to get it. Walk the dog? Watch their little brother? Mow the lawn? Create summer chart together (so you are not the one porting all those dishes from the tv room to the sink). Explain that if they use their free time to lighten your load, you’ll have more time and energy for the fun stuff.
- Network with neighbors, your kids’ friends’ parents, and your own extended families to share childcare. One of the best lessons of parenthood is that we’re all in this together, often facing similar juggling challenges. Sending your kids to grandma’s for two weeks, or to a neighbor’s house after school, might not work for nine months during the school year. But it could work wonderfully for the summer, for you and your kids and your parenting network.
The goal here is simple: you and your kids deserve to enjoy summer and to enjoy each other during summer. Every summer seems endless in early June, but the weeks (and years) fly by faster than we all think. So – like our kids’ childhoods – we owe it to ourselves, and our kids, to enjoy summer while it lasts.