As parents, some of the most precious moments are those when there’s peace and quiet. Although we treasure all of the fun-filled times with our children, after a weekend of shuttling our little ones around to soccer games, gymnastics practice, science museums, birthday parties, etc. etc., what we look forward to most on Monday mornings is having a set of continuous hours to breathe, sip a cup of coffee, and move through the day without constant interruptions. That’s one of the many benefits of having children in school.
Now that it’s May, summer break is just around the corner and kids will soon be out of school for 2 consecutive months. That means temporarily saying goodbye to serene me time, and preparing to be in full throttle mode 24/7. Before panic sets in as you anxiously anticipate the all-consuming days ahead, here are some tips to plan for summer break and still schedule in some Zen time.
Book Activities Early
Being a new parent, what I’ve learned is that kids’ summer activities are booked up FAST and way before June even approaches. So look into the activities your children may be interested in early on. Think about sports groups, music or arts and crafts classes, science activities, cooking classes, or overnight camps. Inquire when the activities are offered, costs, and age limits. Be sure to register for those that fit into your family’s summer schedule before the waitlist begins and anxiety sets in.
Involve Children in the Planning Process
It’s important to have children participate in the planning process. Ask them for their interests, give them options to choose from, and visually place the potential activities on a big family calendar. To reduce the anxiety of figuring out how everyone’s schedule will fit, color coordinate each person’s activities, and make simple cut-outs from construction paper that can be easily posted and removed as plans change. When children are involved in the decision-making process, they will be more invested in the activity and take ownership of getting there.
Coordinate with Other Parents
Summer break doesn’t have to be filled with only costly camps and classes. Unstructured free play is also important for a child’s imagination and creativity. Thus, coordinate with other parents for weekly playdates or sleepovers. For a group of 6 friends, that would equal 6 playdates or sleepovers if each family hosted one per week. That consumes almost the whole summer break leaving you with less stress to figure out the remainder of the time.
Prioritize Family Time
Before getting lost in all the extracurricular activities, it’s important to nurture family time when we can reconnect with our loved ones and share our day’s experience. The most organic period of the day for this is from dinner to bed time. To connect authentically, keep electronic devices and screens off during family time to prevent distractions and to truly show our children that we value them. Remember to also make time for extended family members who can be an added support to your sanity and help to minimize the stress of childcare.
Schedule “Me” Time
When all is said and done, what is most important is having the mental space and emotional resources to engage with our children in a loving, compassionate way. This means prioritizing self-care and scheduling time to engage in activities that produce those feel good hormones, such as dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, to defend against stress and anxiety. Whether it is exercise, quality time with friends, meditating and breathing in fresh outdoor air, or even reading a mentally energizing book, schedule at least an hour a day to reinvigorate your mental wellness. Otherwise we wouldn’t be any good for our children.
To learn more about summer groups and other thinking activities offered for children ages 2 and up, visit: www.LittleThinkersCenter.com