Summer Vacation is upon us. Your children are either finished with school and already on their vacation, or they’re about to. However you look at it, you are looking into a couple of weeks of no structure, no boundaries, and a total breakdown.
Or… maybe not?
The Summer Vacation period doesn’t have to be stressful and scary for us parents. It’s true that while our kids have the privilege of not going to school, we have to go to work and leave them under-supervised, but it doesn’t mean things should go wrong or be hectic.
By keeping a couple of guiding principles, you can enter the summer vacation with the perfect mindset so that both you and your kids be prepared. In the following post, I’ll share the most important principles that will help you have a cool summer.
Keeping The Boundaries Through Summer Vacation
It’s almost a cliche, but it’s true: kids need boundaries. They cannot thrive without them. Why? Because boundaries keep us safe.
Imagine that you’re going to the Empire State Building Observatory. You’re going up the elevator and arrive at the 86th floor. Then, as you go out, eager to see the magnificent views, you realize there are no walls or banisters. Just open air and a floor. As you imagine yourself standing there, tune into your body sensations. Do you feel the trepidation in your belly?
It’s just like that for our social boundaries. If we don’t have any, we will never feel safe. That’s why children need to have a present, boundary-setting, caregiver around. Whether it’s the parent or the teachers who set the boundaries, kids will actually feel more free with them around.
The summer vacation is our kid’s time-off from school. And while school can be a stressful environment, full of rules and boundaries and social expectations, it doesn’t mean we should give up on those altogether during the hot months.
While we want our kids to clear their heads, have some plain-old fun and explore their world, we also need them to stay safe.
Boundaries are as important during the summer vacation as on every other time.
Routines are a good way to keep boundaries, and you should stick to routines during the summer vacation. While it’s true that the summer vacation is a good time for breaking some routines, you should still keep some of them intact.
For example, there’s no reason not to have your family dinner intact. Even if your kids wake up later than usual and won’t eat breakfast with you, there’s no reason to give up on having a family dinner. It will give your days a structure that is really needed.
And if you don’t already have a family dinner tradition, it’s a great time to start one. Dinner time is a great opportunity to get together after a day of being apart, sharing your experiences and checking in on your kids.
The Importance of Summer Vacation Schedules
Where I grew up, summer vacation lasted exactly 62 days. I still remember how long it seemed at the beginning of July, and you felt like you had all the time in the world to do WHATEVER. YOU. WANTED.
And then, before you had the chance to say Chris Christopherson, half a vacation went by without you doing anything other than gawking at the TV for a couple of hours every day (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
That’s why I think you should create a schedule for your kid’s summer vacation. I’m not talking about a rigid, too-planned schedule. I’m talking about having a sense of the time ahead of you and deciding how to enjoy it best.
As long as you don’t want your kids to just play Fortnite all day long, creating some kind of schedule is the best way to manage the day-to-day activities of the summer vacation. By doing so with your kids, you’ll give them a sense of control and a say in how their vacation looks like.
I suggest you have a schedule on two levels – weekly and daily. Let’s go over them.
Take a calendar, either on paper or a digital one, and check the exact dates of your summer vacation. I think that a paper calendar is best because you can hang it on your refrigerator or other prominent places in your home so everyone could see it.
Do you have any summer camp? Are you traveling somewhere as a family? Mark it down clearly on your calendar. You want your kids to know exactly what and when are you planning to do together.
If you have more than one child, and they have different activities schedules, give a distinct color for each one. That way you could easily see who is doing what and when, which is a great way to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.
Try to have your children do this activity with you. Let them choose their colors and mark their activities. This is a great way to include them in the decision-making process and have them share the responsibility.
Keep in mind that this is a vacation. Sometimes parents try to cram up so many activities so their children will have no free time. This is usually what happens when parents can’t deal with their child being bored. Don’t do that. Let your child have some time off with no schedules or pre-planned activities. Let them get bored – that’s where creativity comes from. Let them find out for themselves what to do.
Other than having a weekly schedule, it’s wise for you to have some kind of a daily schedule. Again, I’m not talking about a rigid schedule that looks like this:
8:00 – WAKE UP!
8:30 – Have Breakfast.
9:00 – Play Fortnite for a couple of hours.
11:00 – Snack Time
12:00 – Go to see Donnie at his house
I am talking about having a sense of how the day should look like. If they don’t have anything planned (like a camp or something of the sort), it’s up to you to decide how long are they allowed to play online games or watch tv, etc.
It is really up to you to decide what their day will look like. And again, try to include them in the conversation (but set your boundaries clearly).
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A Note About Sleeping Schedules
During the summer vacation, it’s really easy to throw the sleeping schedules out the window. And truth be told, it’s to be expected that sleeping routines will change. Kids can go to bed later and wake up later. That’s part of the fun.
However, as a parent, you have an obligation for your kid’s health and well-being. And you know what? Also for your own. Set your red lines regarding sleeping times. If you have little children, maybe you shouldn’t let them go to sleep at 10 PM only because it's summer vacation.
I referenced this point before, but it’s so important, I want to hammer it down. You should include your children in the planning of your summer vacation. It is, after all, their summer vacation as well.
I have written before about the authoritarian parenting style and its problems. Authoritarian parents make all the decisions for their children, not giving the child’s opinion any place. You don’t want to do that, because it’s a sure way to give your children a feeling of not being included, not being seen and eventually, your connection will be broken.
The better alternative is the authoritative parenting style. Being an authoritative parent means you handle your family like a democracy with distinct leaders – the parents. As an authoritative parent, you include your kids in decision making and hear them out. It’s been shown that authoritative parenting leads to more confident children who grow up to be confident adults.
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Include your kids in the planning. Ask them how they want to spend their summer vacation. Let them share all their ideas and dreams, even those that you know are impossible. At least hear them out. Eventually, you will be the one to decide what’s possible and relevant and what isn’t, but who knows – maybe your kids will have some awesome ideas that you didn’t think of?
Prepare the calendar together. Take a big cardboard and let them draw the calendar and decorate it, using different colors for every kid’s plan, etc. Hang it in a place where everybody can see what’s going on all the time.
Establish Touching Points Throughout the Day
During the school year, you know there’s always someone who’s attending to your kids. At some age, they need less supervision but it’s always good to know that someone is there, just in case.
When they’re on summer vacation, however, it’s not the same. There are days when they’re on camp or another activity, but what about when they’re home alone?
It’s a good idea to establish a habit of connecting on several points during the day. I call it Touching Points, mainly because they can be short and simple.
Tell your kids that you expect them to let you know what’s going with them on certain points during the day. A phone call or a text when they wake up, an update on their lunch, etc. And make sure to contact them regularly, every hour or two. This can do a lot for your own peace of mind and their sense of being taken care of (without a sense of intrusion).
Summer Vacation is Best for Having Fun Together
OK, by now it may seem like I think that summer vacation is all about rules, schedules, and regulations. Hell no! The summer vacation is about having fun!
But the fun doesn’t stop at your kids. The summer vacation is a wonderful opportunity to have some fun together. You deserve this, after working so hard for the entire year both at your job and as a parent.
Don’t forget to try and take some time off your work and do stuff together with your kids. And if you can’t afford to have days off or to travel, you can probably find the time and opportunities to have fun together anyway. Do things that you normally don’t do, like having a special dinner.
Play together! Through the year everyone is so engrossed with their jobs and homework, it would do wonders for your connection if you allow yourself to play a little, joke around and wind down.
Not sure what to do for fun? Ask your kids! Include them in the situation and decision making and see where they go.
Preparing for the End of Summer Vacation
This is an important point that people tend to neglect. For every vacation, there’s an end. And while you don’t want to think about it, it will come. You’d be wise if you prepare yourself, and especially your kids, for the end of the summer vacation and going back to school.
Going back to school after such a long vacation can be tough. Your kids are accustomed to a new sleeping routine, and it will be tough on them to suddenly go back to the school-year routine.
So, about a week before the end of the summer vacation, establish a “going back to school” mode in your home. Start to have an earlier bedtime until you arrive at the desired one for school nights. It would make it so much easier for them to go back to the daily routine.
The summer vacation is an awesome opportunity for your kids to wind down after a whole year of responsibilities. And the same goes for you. But it’s also ripe ground for fights, struggles, and stress. In this post, I offered some principles that will help you survive the summer vacation and actually enjoy it.
What are you planning for your summer vacation? What helps you have a happy, stress-free vacation?
Featured image by Jakob Owens