Summer is right around the corner and your kids are going to be out of school before you know it. To support you in planning for a successful summer, I put together this helpful list with tips geared towards parents of middle school age kids. However, they certainly apply to all families.
1. Let’s get on the same page, literally!
Family life and scheduling can be chaotic and summer adds new challenges to the mix. With some good planning and organization you can have a great summer with your kids. Having a family calendar can help keep everyone on the same page.
- Have a family meeting at the start of summer
- Use a family calendar for all summer events and activities
- Everything goes on the calendar: sleepovers, day trips, medical appts.
- Digital or analog (wall calendar or dry erase calendar)
- Use Google calendar, iCal or other online family calendar services
- Sync the family calendar with everyone’s mobile devices
cozi.com is a free app and website that helps you manage the chaos of family life with a shared calendar, shopping lists, to do lists and more (free & paid service).
famjama.com provides family scheduling, shopping lists, to-do lists and it is totally free.
Check out this article: Get Organized: Managing a Family Calendar
2. But you never told me that!
You can give the gift of clear expectations to your kids. Discuss what the expectations for the summer are going to be together. Talk separately with your spouse about some ideas you have before coming together.
Involve your kids in planning and decision making. If they feel like their vote counts they may protest less and not be as irritable over the summer. Work on negotiating skills.
Set up clear guidelines for television, computer, and video game use. Set up a media contract: click HERE for a template.
Be clear and consistent with what you draw up. Consequences should be thought-out, non-punitive, logical, and communicated ahead of time. No spur-of-the moment, “you’re grounded for a month!!!” punishments.
If rules get broken, hold the limit, be calm and speak with loving authority: “Do you remember when we talked about this… And the consequence was… Since you didn’t follow through with our agreement, this… is going to happen.”
No screaming and no violence. Let your actions speak for themselves. Lead by example.
3. Get by with a little help from their friends
There is a delicate balance to monitoring your teen as they develop the sixth sense of not wanting you around. When you signed up as a parent, you signed a commitment with your DNA to be involved, monitor, and support your teen, at least up until age 18.
As they age, this involvement, monitoring, and support will change. But for right now, here are 4 questions you should get answered each time your teen wants to venture out.
- Who is my teen with and do I have their contact info?
- Where is my teen and where will they be going?
- What will they be doing?
- How will they get home and at what time?
Note of importance: Your teen may give you a hard time about answering these questions initially but if you can tolerate the slack it will become habit and the resistance should fade.
Here are a few other ideas about your child and their friends. Have friends over at your house. If in question about what your child is doing, spend time at your home or be in charge of pickup and drop off for your kids. Get the contact info of parents your child is spending time with and connect with them.
For more ideas check out this excellent article by Shannon L. Sachs – Click HERE.
4. Make time for family time
Some kids love family time and others avoid it like they are allergic. Some of this depends on your particular kid, the family relationships and your family culture. A positive relationship with a caring adult is always the best way to keep your kids safe & happy.
- Have weekly family time set aside. Plan the time in advance and guard it.
- Spend quality time that is not together, but separate. Everyone’s in the house, but on their own mobile devices.
- Make it fun & incorporate your kids interests- see idea list
- Use deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial for ideas
- Make friends with Pinterest – tons of ideas, projects, activities, etc.
- Balance structured vs. unstructured time & family vs. friend time – kids want to “hang out” while parents want planned activities.
Great article by Bruce Feiler on the 5 Secrets to a Happy Family.
“Don’t worry about family dinner. Sure, we’ve all heard that family dinner is great for kids, but for many of us, it doesn’t work with our schedule. Dig deeper, though, and the news is brighter for parents. Turns out there’s only ten minutes of meaningful conversation in any meal; the rest is taken up with “Take your elbows off the table” and “pass the ketchup.” You can take those ten minutes, place them at any time of the day, and have the same benefit. Can’t have family dinner? Try family breakfast, meet for a bedtime snack, even one meal on weekends can help. Time-shifting isn’t just for work or your favorite TV show; it also works with family time.” Excerpt from Bruce Feiler’s book “The Secrets of Happy Families”
Activity ideas: music festivals, state parks, Sunday morning breakfast, family movie night .
Getting ideas from Pinterest.com – here is something I found with a quick search. Summer Bucket List & Family Activity Ideas
5. Keep the lines of communication open
Keeping the lines of communication open will go a long way to having a successful summer. Here are some things to think about when considering how you and your kids talk with each other.
- Take a non-judgmental approach
- Start thinking about the changing nature of pre-teens
- They are becoming teens/young adults and have more opinions
- Parents start moving to more of a consultant role
- Warning signs for trouble – drugs, alcohol, porn, dating relationships, isolation
Bonus Tip: Make Time For Pina Coladas and Dancing In The Rain
Don’t forget to enjoy the summer yourself!
We could have a whole talk about why parents don’t take care of themselves and always put everyone else’s needs first. We all become better parents instantly when we do something good for ourselves, whether it is exercising, eating healthy, going on a date, hanging with friends, a weekend away, a month away . . . ok I am pushing it. 🙂
I know from experience that when I have cared for myself through healthy habits or relaxation, I come out being a more patient and understanding parent. The whole family wins when you and I take care of ourselves. When you are more relaxed and put together, so is your family.
Plan “you time” in advance and stick with those plans.
Take these ideas, put them into practice and have a great summer!