School's out. Now what? Try These Tips for Summer Parenting

If you’re like us, managing to cope with family dynamics and the laughable idea of work/life balance for the last several months has felt like a never-ending battle. We all deserve a break—and it’s finally here. Summer... right? Oh, but now that the kids are out of school and there’s not much for them to do with various, regional health restrictions limiting everything from summer camps to summer trips, we’re in a bind. Parenting, co-parenting, and everything in between is about to get a lot more complicated. And our sanity is walking a line thinner than the sandal strip we wish we were wearing on a beach somewhere. Here are some basic tips (with details) for transitioning into the summer months and surviving as a parent.

Don’t panic.

First, breathe. Deep inhales, long slow exhales. (Check out our top meditation apps.) Amidst the high rates of furloughed and unemployed workers, for those of us lucky enough to keep our jobs, the added burden of taking on additional roles and daily tasks is causing extra stress. The last thing we need right now is to go into full-on burnout mode

Don’t forget to take breaks.

Now that we’ve given ourselves a moment, it’s time to make some plans. Specifically, planning to take a break. In the middle of everything going on for the past twelve weeks (or so), plans have been shelved indefinitely, events canceled, celebrations postponed. Now, it’s time to throw those life moments back up on the calendar. Celebrating the present and embracing a spirit of “Be Here Now,” is more than a mantra. When we celebrate milestones and accomplishments, we are actively building community and instilling meaning and significance into our lives. In the mad hustle of survival mode, we almost lost this vastly important quality. We’re bringing it back into our families this summer.

Do take a holiday.

Families deserve a break for the summer. We believe it’s important to ask for time away, even though our original trips and events may look different. Car camping and road trips have never been more popular, and thanks to our vast nation, there are tons of beautiful sites in all geographic regions.

Do take time off from work.

A long weekend or an afternoon to turn off the computer and go to the park are excellent reasons to take personal time. Even just a few days away from our regular routine can inspire some freshness and well-needed rest.

Do take time just for ourselves.

We often take time to attend to our family’s needs, but we can’t afford to neglect our own. Whether it be a walk, seated respite outdoors or soothing bath, me-time ultimately enables us to care better for our loved ones.

Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines.

This summer is going to be very different, and that’s OK. Maybe we all get a “pass.” This could be the summer our children look back on with fond memories because we spent so much time together. This could be a summer where we all connected. We could learn to lean into uncomfortable conversations and learn to see each other and face our nation’s struggles. Allowing ourselves to try new things will require us to think in new ways. Parenting in 2020 may require us to flip the script and ask us to sit back and learn from our children (and not the other way around). 

Don’t forget to delegate.

We can’t do everything ourselves, taking on the role of caretaker, teacher, breadwinner, parent, and disciplinarian. And, yet, it seems that some of us dove headfirst into this role without so much as a second thought. According to psychologists and labor experts, women carry a disproportionate amount of the load of family responsibilities under even the most ideal circumstances. And this “mental load,” of added burdens that women must manage when running a household adds up quickly. Now that our families are losing the structure of school (even virtual classes), it’s extremely important to ask for help, delegate responsibilities, and be specific about what is needed to help reduce the workload. 

Do this instead:

Here are some fun ideas, from the community, that we’re sharing to get started.

1. Do take a stay-cation. 

Just because the family trip out of state is on hold doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy an experience that feels authentic and brings fresh energy into our lives. Plus, saving our money on travel means we can invest in something we may have never considered like renting bikes for the summer or leveling-up our camping-style. There are tons of ways to get creative about the stay-cation from themed weekends to movie night marathons (family film-festival anyone?), to exploring our own city.

2. Do a DIY summer camp.

We love to keep the kids engaged over the break, but summer camps are going mostly virtual—and that’s OK. Virtual camps are still a great way to interact and learn, but there are also creative ways to get the kiddos into the fresh air and new learning environments, such as: Neighborhood scavenger hunts that teach kids about solving clues; Master Chef challenges designed to discover new culinary skills; Multi-media at-home Art Camp; Athletic activities with siblings or one or two neighbors in sports that can be distanced (tennis, swimming, bike riding, boating, running or hiking).

3. Do game-ify it.

Summer routines are helpful for kids and families, especially for parents who are working from home. But, finding the motivation to stick to a routine over the break is a challenge. So, we suggest doing just that—make it a fun challenge. Chores like making the bed or getting up (or going to bed) at a certain time can be met with rewards like family WiFi codes, extra free time before bed, choosing the next Netflix option, and more. Motivations like allowance and cash are old-school. Helping our kids gain autonomy and independence is a goal we’re on board with, and so is behavioral expert Dan Pink. 

4. Do Collaborate

This is a time to come together as a community. Reach out to neighbors or friends close by. Offer to share in overseeing each other’s kids to provide some free time for each other up. Create safe ways to interact at a distance, while connecting interpersonally. It may just be that our slower pandemic pace could provide new opportunities to bond with those who’ve been around all along.

This year, all bets are off. We’re trying new things and going with the flow. As we show up for our families, they will show up for us. We simply cannot attempt to navigate this summer with the same tools and techniques that have worked in our past. So, this year, we’re trying something new. Here’s to summer. 

"Each new chapter of our lives requests an old part of us to fall and a new part of us to rise." - Jenna Galbut