It’s summer again! And this year we’ll all be taking steps back toward normal – whatever “normal” means for you. You’ll likely be working to find ways to encourage your kids out of the house or apartment, off of their computers, free from distance learning. Hopefully your plans include setting aside time for no plans; unstructured time for unforced connecting and free time as a family. Maybe even a chance to take some time away. The stuff summer dreams are made of! It is possible to have a great summer!
Your summer nightmare coming true?
With the promise of long, lazy days of unforced fun and connection, comes the not-too-distant worry that summer is too unstructured. Kids will get bored. They’ll get antsy. They’ll demand attention in the most annoying ways. Tempers may flare and siblings (for lack of anything more constructive to do) will intensify their squabbles. A summer nightmare coming true.
These long days can leave kids feeling aimless and looking for excitement in all the wrong places. The vacations (we learned early on to call them trips) can quickly turn from fun adventures to stressful days in unfamiliar settings with competing agendas and desires from every family member. Parents commonly struggle, while possibly still working from home, to help their kids learn to constructively navigate these challenges.
If this describes your reality you’re not alone.
Read below for 4 tips to help you manage this extra time and get closer to the best hopes for summer and away from the worst fears. You’ll learn to retain your parenting sanity while responding to the classic summer challenges of boredom, sibling conflict, and more time together.
By offering grace to yourself and your kids every day, you can have a great summer!!
1. Guide kids to brainstorm their own fun and be a blessing.
What to do with all that time on your hands? Boredom is a choice, so help your kids take responsibility for their boredom by adding an element of purpose. One mom credited family meetings for a great start to the summer. In their weekly family time, the whole family problem-solved how to work together to have the best summer possible. The purpose was simply to help her kids grow in planning skills and independence. Here are tips for setting a meeting up to succeed.
You can let kids consider fun, creative alternatives to screen-time to jump-start their thinking. This helps them grow into the simple purpose of learning to engage well in the three-dimensional world. Involving children in this process communicates important messages: “You are responsible for your own activity choices, and you are capable of coming up with some really creative ideas!”
Ultimately, your kids, like you, are created by God to do good things; to be a blessing. As you help them grow into the purpose mentioned above you can also work with them to consider and plan ways they can use their skills to be a blessing to others. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Perhaps they can run a lemonade stand to raise money for a favorite charity.
- Or maybe they can follow the lead of one young man, whose arcade became a global model for raising money for disadvantaged kids.
- Possibly weeding for an elderly neighbor
- or making cookies for a Covid-bound friend.
- If you’re feeling super ambitious about cultivating a sense of purpose you could even plan a family mission trip. Many churches or organizations have opportunities for this.
2. Focus on building valuable skills in sibling conflict.
When the “all together, all the time” stress builds, parents can view the increased sibling conflict as a great opportunity to build life-long relational skills, empathy, and insight. (The more frequent the conflict, the greater the opportunity! Check out our Sibling Conflict online course).
Another great way to build strength in sibling conflicts is to discover each child’s “gift gone awry” — the God-given talent that is contributing to the conflict. Some examples:
- A passionate, expressive child is more likely to say hurtful things when riled up.
- A focused child may have more difficulty sharing toys.
- A natural leader might appear bossy to siblings and friends.
For help uncovering and affirming your child’s gifts, see our list of 12 misbehaviors and the gifts behind them.
3. Travel purposefully.
Planning a family road trip or vacation this summer? Check out our guide to planning a purposeful family trip as well as these tips to retain your sanity during a family car trip. Traveling with your family may not always be as relaxing as you imagined, but it can be a great opportunity to connect and grow as a family. As we often say (especially if your kids are young), “Don’t call them vacations — call them trips!”
4. Have grace for yourself!
Take a deep breath. You are not SuperDad or WonderMom. You will not get everything right the first time or even the twenty-first time. But the times of conflict, frustration, and even tears hold the rich opportunity to lean into Jesus’ love for you all. During these moments your children will watch and learn about the depth of God’s grace. (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Help a friend have a great summer by sharing this article!
In our online course, Sibling Conflict: From Bickering to Bonding, we teach parents how to teach kids The Peace Process. This process equips kids to work through their arguments without your constant supervision and refereeing. Join us! Your kids will thank you.