My friend Sarah is in a panic. Pre-school isn’t even out yet and she’s already anxious about how she’s going to get through each day during the summer with three boys 5 and under.
“I’m already tired and stressed,” she told me. “It scares me to think of all the kids on our street riding scooters, knocking little kids down, and banging constantly on my door. And pool dates. Forget them. My kids can’t swim yet so it’s me in my big ‘skirt’ swimsuit with my big nursing boobs falling out trying to keep everyone from drowning. A ‘relaxing day’ at the pool it isn’t. How will I catch up on laundry, emails, and have time for me? I feel guilty when I put in a video or movie.”
Allison has five kids 8-17. She can’t wait for summer so she can be in charge of their lives instead of being at the mercy of three different school schedules.
She says, “They’ll belong to me again. I do wonder what we’ll do all day but I also know that I’m looking at limited time that I have left with these kids. I want to make memories that a family can’t do during the school year.”
Just the thought of summer causes a variety of emotions. One mom can’t wait. Then there’s the other mom who is dreading it. It’s easy to fall into one of two extremes: Either we overbook ourselves and our kids with activities so that by the end of the summer we are more exhausted than ever; or we fail to plan and suffer through a summer of frustration and whining which, by August, leaves us with a sense that we didn’t do anything, we just got through it.
We need to remember that summer is a gift. It is a gift of time, a change of pace.
God gave us seasons. He knows that we need breaks. We want to cherish this gift of time and to seek His wisdom as to the best way to use it for our family.
Here are five hot tips that will help us to get the most out of this gift of summer:
1. Make a plan. A wise woman will develop a vision for her family’s summer. Have a planning meeting with your spouse and discuss the following together:
- What are our family needs?
- What are each child’s needs?
- What are our personal and couple needs?
- Consider the following: vacation time, job requirements, finances, goals for spiritual and personal enrichment, and rest!
You might pick a theme for the summer—for example, courage. Read biographies of courageous people. Have each person give a report. Visit an historical site and ask what part courage played in its history. Pick a courageous biblical character like Joshua and learn all you can about him. With young children, dress up and act out a play about your character.
2. Make your home the place to hang out. You can control what goes on in your own home, not in someone else’s. Have lots of food. It’s a magnet and will attract the kids. You may feel like you are living in chaos but it’s just for a season.
Encourage your kids to draw up a list of things to do with friends when they come over. For example, have each child bring an ingredient to make the world’s largest banana split. Collect discarded wood from a construction project, assemble tools, and have a design party.
3. Do creative things you don’t usually have time for. It’s helpful to create a list of meaningful options. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Designate places to go on a field trip.
- Take a CPR class.
- Arrange for your child to job shadow someone in his or her field of interest for several days.
- Have a photo album party and make photo books with all the photos that are sitting on your laptops.
- Take a class at a community college or technical school.
- Take advantage of the many Bible camp options. Most have scholarship help available.
4. Teach responsibility. Summer is a great time to train our kids in responsibility. Each family member should have regular chores all year round. Chores teach responsibility and thoughtfulness. During the summer give each child an additional summer project. Let them clean out all that collected stuff and have a garage sale. Donate the leftovers to a charity. Tithe the proceeds. You’ll feel great when you get rid of that stuff!
Is there a child who seems blue? Find someone for him to care for (i.e., volunteer with special needs kids, visit a nursing home, or work in a soup kitchen). Reaching out to someone else can be a cure for self-pity.
Is a child whining, “I’m bored”? Boredom is not a sin and it’s not our responsibility to keep our kids from being bored. In fact, boredom can be good. Handle it with humor and encourage your child to come up with something creative to do. Don’t be her solution because she will not learn how to use her creative gifts to entertain herself.
5. Plan a mid-summer adjustment. It’s always good to take stock mid-summer and see what changes need to be made. What can I do differently that will make the second half of the summer the best half? Cancel a plan because we’re overbooked? Plan some new field trips? Take turns trading kids with another mom?
Remember the “re-entry principle.” Re-entry occurs when you return from a vacation. All of a sudden everyone seems crabby, including mom. It’s back to real life, chores, and responsibilities. It’s depressing; it’s normal; it’s “re-entry.” It lasts about three days and then it’s over. It simply helps to recognize it.
Father, help us to treasure this summer as your gift. Give to each of us your wisdom in how to use it. We thank you for this change of pace.
Susan Yates has written thirteen books and has spoken nationally and internationally on the subject of marriage, parenting and women’s issues for many years. For 11 years she was a regular columnist on parenting for Today’s Christian Woman magazine. Susan is the mother of five and has 21 grandchildren, including a set of quads. She is devoted to sharing her wisdom and experience with moms and wives and is selflessly available to those in need. Susan has been a mom for 40 years, she and John have been married for 43 years.