The school year is drawing quickly to a close — thank goodness! The last few weeks of school are often a trying endeavor for students and parents alike, with families feeling weary of the school routines and demands, all too ready for a welcome change, but dragging dutifully along to the finish line. You’re almost there!
The flurry of graduations, end-of-school parties, family celebrations and school wrap-up events will soon be history and Sunny Summer will make its grand entrance on the scene.
Although we claim we are ready to be rid of the over-packed and demanding days of the academic year, in the past few years, summer has had a tendency to take on its own form of busyness as well. Where’s the change we so desperately need?
As early as January, there is talk among parents about what camps will be available this summer, decisions are being made regarding summer school attendance, there are swimming and tennis lessons to sign up for, round-the-year sports teams to continue as well as family vacations in the works.
When the relief of lazy summer days is finally felt, and everyone in the family takes a deep cleansing breath, a glance at the calendar reveals a new pile-up of activities, different yes, but with the potential to create that similar feeling of someone in the family having to be somewhere at a certain time — all day long.
The practice of packing summer to the hilt seems to be driven by one of two things. The first is that parents seem panicked to be with their children day after day with nothing scheduled, and afraid that their children will sound the familiar cry, “I’m bored!” Consequently, they then feel responsible to fill the time with worthwhile activities. To prevent this panic, parents tend to over-schedule their children.
The second reason summer over-scheduling occurs is because our culture tells us that we need to be constantly productive, and that for our children to be successful, we must use every spare minute of their time to help them improve, expand, advance and achieve the whole year around.
Both of these reasons are understandable. However, what is often left out of the equation is that there is value for children to spend some time with nothing planned or demanded of them. Children need some unscheduled space to emotionally absorb the happenings of their days and to daydream. Parents need this as well.
If parents refrain from stepping in the minute a child declares she is bored, that child will eventually learn how to entertain herself. She will learn to be in charge of her own contentment, and this will be a product of her own creative energy.
This summer, try to work at finding a balance between planning several interesting and fun activities and local adventures for your children, and then allow some time and space for him to lie in the hammock and read a book — with no calendar or clock that interrupts the deliciousness of the moment. Both are valuable for your child.
Parents also need some time and space to recapture a sense of themselves — apart from their children. Get a pile of books, and have one you’re reading every spare minute, providing great modeling for your children. Find daytime babysitters who are willing to give you a break — go out for coffee or lunch with a friend, walk the Rose Bowl or sit on a bench in Descanso Gardens, do a weekly yoga class, schedule an occasional date with your spouse.
Find ways to be refreshed by summer! You need summer as much, or more so, than your children — to be relaxed, re-created and revived.
Before you know it, summer will take a bow, and your nose will be back to the grindstone. So stop yourself before you fill up your summer calendar, and leave some blank spaces for drinking lemonade on the porch swing — with your children by your side.
1. At the beginning of summer, have a family meeting and together, list all of the local activities that sound fun to the family.
2. Now list possible “at home” activities. Post the list on the fridge for future reference.
3. Decide on one day a week when you will go to the library or bookstore for new books.
4. Be clear about your boundaries on “screen time” during the summer and enforce.
5. Post “around the house” jobs that can be done to earn spending money.
6. Teach your children how to make lemonade.
7. Buy a new hammock and assign one day a week to each family member. Learn to relax!