Sunshine, green grass, popsicles, pool parties, playgrounds, and lazy days. As you anticipate summer break with your kids, some of these visions might be dancing in your head. But if you’re like me, summer can quickly slip from your grasp before you realize what’s happened.
Over the past several years, I’ve tried a variety of approaches for summer break. Sometimes I’ve built in organization and structure, with planned activities throughout. Other years I’ve opted for the “lazy summer” route, with no agenda other than praying that my children sleep past 7am.
Wherever you land on the spectrum, here are a few simple ways you can prepare for an amazing summer with your kids.
Set a few goals
I know this will intimidate the mom who wants to take the laid-back approach, but here’s the good news: That can be one of your goals! Think of one or two words that you’d like to make your “focus words” for the summer. When you look back at the end of your break, these are the things you want to have experienced with your kids and will be disappointed if you didn’t accomplish them.
Is the laid-back approach your thing? You might choose rest and relaxation as your words. Do you want to go on lots of outings with your kids? Fun or adventure is your focus. Are you a mom who thrives on structure or who wants to use the break to teach your kids responsibility around the house? Then you might choose those words. There are no right or wrong answers here. Select whatever fits you and your family.
Establish healthy boundaries
One of the biggest challenges of summer break is the merging of everyone’s schedules with no time and space apart. Unless you’re a homeschooling mom who is used to this routine, summer can turn your world upside down.
Think about the personalities in your family, particularly if you or your kids need time alone to recharge and build in space to do that if needed. Don’t forget self-care for you as the mom too. If you’re spending every minute with your kids during the day, you might build in one night a week to do something for yourself—maybe going to a fitness class or meeting a friend for coffee. If you can’t leave the house, designate a “safe zone” where you can hide away and relax for 30 minutes (making sure your kids are safe, of course).
Know your budget
It happens every summer. I plan fun outings with my kids and then realize half of them require money. Museum visits, lunches out, a visit to our favorite ice cream shop—it adds up quickly.
As you think about your goals for the summer, make sure you take finances into account. If your budget is tight, you may have to adjust expectations or get creative to find free activities close by.
Having goals and boundaries is great, but even the best plans can get off track. Be flexible to follow whatever the day brings. If you’ve planned a week full of outings and your kids wake up exhausted, embrace where they’re at and let them have a pajama day at home. My kids have been known to take this a step further and make it a “sleeping bag day.” As much as it feels like I’ve failed as a mom, those days end up being a favorite with my kids.
Flexibility can also mean letting certain tasks go for a short time. The house may not be as clean as usual and five-star meals may not always make it onto the table. But that’s what makes summer so memorable. It fills our lives with beautiful chaos and reminds us of what’s important.
Enjoy it well, my friend.