It’s Summer, So Chill
How to relate to your kids differently over the break
By Amanda Garrigus
The stress of a school day morning cannot be overstated. Dragging sleepyheads out of a deep slumber and onto their two feet, making lunches, ensuring backpacks are in order, getting the kids dressed, ideally with matching socks, then racing for the finish, all with a smile while navigating rush hour traffic and the carpool line is enough to make your head spin. It’s a high-octane routine that requires dedication, a steely resolve, and a few canned responses (“No, you may not have another five minutes in bed!”), in order to conquer. When the summer holidays finally arrive, it can be hard to shed those knee jerk impulses in favor of a softer approach. We’re here to help. Read on for a few tips on how to relax the reins, reconnect, and allow the lazy days of summer to be exactly that. Better for you, better for your kids.
Let Them Lead
Summer provides the perfect opportunity to let your kids take on more of a leadership role in family decision making. The stakes are lower, and hopefully your capacity for patience is a little higher. Planning a last-minute trip? Involve your kids in the conversation. Look at maps together and review accommodations. Take in their feedback and opinions and incorporate their suggestions where you can. Contributing to the family in this way is empowering for them and can provide another precious opportunity for bonding with you.
This is a tricky one. If you’ve ever had a hard time falling asleep, you’ll agree that protecting a solid night of z’s is worth a little sacrifice on the back end. While you may be tempted to let your kids stay up until all hours, or sleep past noon, experts agree, you’re not doing them any favors. More and more research is showing that sleep could be our best ally in our efforts to improve brain function, increase longevity, prevent disease, and promote healing. Having a set bedtime, and a calming routine to support it, helps our brains settle down for the night and wake rested and unassisted by alarm clocks in the morning. Those sleep rhythms you worked so hard to establish during the school year just might be worth preserving. Still, a little leeway for a sleepover here or a late-start family movie night there is a pretty compelling show of goodwill, and probably a summer concession worth making, albeit judiciously.
Boring = Good
There are very few things that are guaranteed in life, but one certainty is that sometime over the weeks between the last day of school and the first, someone is going to say, “I’m bored!” When this happens many of us feel the need to jump into action, plan some fun outing or another, or just rest in the guilt of not having more to offer. (Instagram is a good place to source guilt-inducing content to fuel your feelings of inferiority.) Resist the urge to do any of the things, at least sometimes. We’re not suggesting that you leave your kids sitting in their rooms for sixty straight days, this will drive both of you nuts. Travel, participate in camps, cook and consume more baked goods than any sane person should, throw a party, but, on the flip side, don’t be afraid to allow your kids to be a little bored every now and then. It’s good for them. Great ideas are born out of boredom. If their little minds are constantly offered a smorgasbord of entertainment, they will never see what they can come up with on their own. Innovation is the buzzword for this generation, and you can’t innovate if you’re never given the chance to sit quietly with your own thoughts. So, the next time your child says that disheartening phrase, take heart, and let them work it out. You might just be setting them up to uncover the world’s next great discovery.
All in all, the summer provides a perfect opportunity to cut your kids some slack. Give them the chance to be messy, and bored, and to make mistakes when there’s a little more breathing room in your schedules. These small shifts will bring about lots of opportunities to bond and grow and can amount to a successful summer to remember.