You fall for it every year. You get so caught up in your kid’s excitement. You count down the days with them, buy them shorts and tank tops, and load up on freezer pops and sunscreen. And foolishly, foolishly you believe that somehow their summer fun has something to do with your chance to relax.
Silly mommy. Dear, unsuspecting daddy.
Oh, the first month is all right. It’s all tanning and pool parties, volleyball and board games, and trips to playgrounds and amusement parks.You take scrapbook pictures of romps through the sprinklers. Hang out at the mall. Maybe you’re lucky enough to actually get out of town for a while.
But weeks after the last day of school, soon after the fourth of July, you realize you’re far from relaxed.
You’re still ridiculously busy. Still busy driving, still packing lunches. Still planning, still packing the car. Still breaking up fights and refilling the fridge. Still hosting playdates and impromptu sleepovers… everyday.
Still, it’s summer, right? It’s fun.
So you plaster on your “cool parent,” summer face and keep trying to do it all. Without the seven to nine hour daily break… called school.
Silly mommy. Oh, daddy. You fall for it every year.
If you’re starting to take offense when you hear the inevitable “I’m bored,” it sounds like you could use a little help getting your own needs met. If your eye drifts to the calendar on the wall, and your own mental countdown has begun, it’s definitely time to remove your kids from the center of your universe and get back in there…
Self-care to the rescue. Summer excitement doesn’t have to fade so soon. The dream of summer vacation relaxation is completely possible for parents who have a few self care strategies like these to use:
1. Be fine with an “okay” summer.
Don’t promise your kids “the best summer ever.” It’s too much pressure and it’s really not your primary job. Feed them, clothe them. Enjoy your time together. But put the burden on them to make most of the fun stuff happen.
You don’t have to make all of their Disney designed summer dreams come true.
Resist the urge to “fix” their boredom. You’ll be amazed at what they come up with while you’re giving them thumbs up from your shady spot on the patio.
2. Unplug. Just say “no” to social media summer envy.
Long ago, kids wrote reports titled, “What I did over summer vacation.” Mostly because nobody knew.
Keep social media society guessing. Forgo Facebook for real-time fun and fill people in later. In the meantime, don’t compare yourself to all those posts, tweets, and Instagram pics of other parents who look like their doing summer better. Who needs the stress?
3. Call it a “school night.” It’s easy to let summer become an unscheduled free for all.
Bring back bedtime. Who cares if it doesn’t get dark til 9:00 p.m.? Invest in room darkening shades, put the little ones to bed at 8:00, and relax until you hear the cartoons come on at dawn.
4. Chores: Delegate and eliminate.
From the moment your kids dropped those backpacks at the door, you’ve probably been trying to manage dusty floors, smelly laundry, and piles of sticky dishes.
If peace for you is a tidy home, good self-care means making sure your family helps keep it clean. Don’t be afraid to divide the chores with your family members and journal while someone else runs the vacuum.
Ensure cooperation with praise and appreciation ice cream. Whatever works. Do away with dishes and kitchen cleanup as much as possible. Summer is for outdoor dining and recycling paper plates, and plasticware.
5. Bring back the books.
When the firecrackers go silent and the dog days of summer loom ahead, a good book comes in handy. Take your crew to the library and help them find some reading material for a daily bit of mandatory quiet time.
Let your kids know that 20 to 30 minutes during the day will be spent in their rooms, simply taking a break from you, each other, and all things electronic. It’s a great way to get a little peace and quiet, encourage reading, and let yourself off the hook for constantly trying to keep kids busy.
6. Stop and plant some roses, or squash, or peas.
Spend sometime in the garden. Play in the dirt. There’s something about it. Nurturing nature and watching it respond to your care (without tears or back talk) is calming and inviting. If you don’t have a patch of land of your own, a community garden could be worthy getaway.
7. Finish something.
Nothing feels as good as checking off those lagging projects you just can’t seem to make time for when school’s in session. Find 15 minutes a day to tackle your task, before carpools, volunteering, work commitments, and (gasp) the holidays begin to take over again.
8. Take a hike, ride a bike, downward dog.
How many times have you shooed your kids away from the tv, computer, and the fridge? The same goes for you. Thirty minutes spent on a walk or ride around the neighborhood will do your mental state a world of good.
Work out to your favorite jams while the kids are playing. Chase them around the block. Enlist your partner or a friend to watch them a few times a week while you take extra long jog. A little summertime sweat will invigorate you… and workout a crabby attitude.
9. Take back the night.
Summer days with the kids are fun. But you and your partner need time to reconnect on your own. Call grandma, your best friend, a sitter—who ever answers the phone first wins. Just go.
No partner? No problem. Night time is the right time for catching up with friends, a late night movie marathon, or appetizers on the patio. At their house.
10. Neighborhood Watch (My Kids).
You are not alone. The other parents on your street feel the summer thrill fading too. You can tell by the way your child’s playmate’s mom snatched the pool bag out of trunk. Or by the irritated way the dad two doors down stabbed the straw into one of those leaky pouch drinks his kids are squirting all over his porch.
Why not help each other? Volunteer to take all the kids to the pool on Monday if that mom will watch the kids on Thursday while you make time to daydream on a blanket in the back yard. Let that grumpy dad know his kiddos can drip all over your grass, if he wouldn’t mind letting your kids shoot hoops for an hour in his front yard later.
Cooperative self-care costs less than a sitter and gives you all just enough down time to keep your whole village happy.
Self-care is good. Don’t do summer without it. It’s a summertime survival necessity that reminds you, and your kids, that the center of your little family universe includes you too.
George Sachs is a child psychologist on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. His unique “Dragon Master” Social Skills Group teaches children with ADHD and Aspergers the social skills needed to thrive and succeed in school. Dr. Sachs also uses neurofeedback training as an alternative to medication in the treatment of ADHD and Aspergers in children, teens and adults.