6 Steps to Thrive, Not Just Survive, This Summer!
Does Summer Break Have You Panicking?
Does this happen to you? You look forward to summer, then on the first day panic sets in? The kids start fighting, begging for screen time, and saying they’re bored. OH NO! You immediately start wondering how you’ll ever balance having fun with them, getting work done, and your sanity?
We had an amazing summer last year and I’m determined to make this summer the same, or even better.
I hope you will have an amazing summer too!
I’ve polled my readers and done tons of research, to give you a comprehensive Guide to Design Your Best Summer Break!
Here are 6 steps to creating a memorable summer break for you and your family:
6 Steps to the Best Summer Break
Download the 6 Steps to the Best Summer Break Workbook...
1) Put The Summer In Perspective
This is a biggie! The first step is to put the summer in perspective.
Figure out – how many summers do you have left with each of your kids?
Honestly, I avoided doing this math because I knew it would freak me out. It did. We only have 12 more summers with our oldest at home, 14 with the middle and 16 with the youngest.
While that might seem like a lot at first glance, there are probably only a few summers left with the oldest where he will want to spend the majority of his time with the family, going on outings, doing crafts and getting messy in the backyard.
Soon, he’ll want to hang with his friends most of the time and I don’t want to feel regret by taking the summer for granted.
How many summers do you have left with each of your kids and how do you want to spend the time, what memories do you want to make?
2) Define Success
The next step is to define for yourself – what does a successful summer look like?
You’ve probably heard of Stephen Covey and his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (one of my all-time faves still, is it one of yours?). His 2nd step is ‘begin with the end in mind‘.
- Journal out what will make this summer a ‘success’.
- Use the good/better/best framework so that you can reduce the pressure on yourself. This isn’t black or white, a good summer or bad summer. It is a continuum where you can create an amazing summer, an okay summer, or a throw-away summer…..it’s all in how you set it up for yourself and the family.
- Keep it real. Be realistic with your expectations. The kids are going to fight, the kids are going to say they’re bored, and you’re going to feel stressed when you need to do something (e.g. an important meeting) and suddenly the kids start interrupting you. Include all of these not-so-optimal scenarios in your plan. Write out how you are going to handle these stressful situations and how you are going to recover after they happen so the day isn’t ruined.
3) Set Individual Goals
Have each kid set goals that they work toward over the summer.
My kids are still young so this thought didn’t cross my mind when first thinking about the summer. My friend Dr Christi Hibbert over at Motherhood TV gave me this idea, and she recommends it for kids of all ages.
As a side note, do you ever find yourself falling into that trap where you think your kids are too young for something but they’re really not? I constantly need to catch myself, and realize that all 3 of them (even the almost threenager) can start learning responsibility.
Have each family member set several goals (yes, including the parents). As a prompt to get you started, think about the goals you’d want to accomplish in one or more of these categories:
Then, review their goals with them, to make sure the goals are
- BIG enough for the whole summer and
- aren’t so big that they are completely unrealistic (unless you have a teenager, then this could be a great lesson!).
- I like using the good/better/best framework here as well, to help them define a range of what success means.
Attach a reward to the goals.
On Dr Hibbert’s podcast, Summer Survival Guide: Strategies for Summer Sanity and FUN, she recommends:
A bead jar for younger kids, where they earn a bead for each goal they reach (typically this would be a daily habit for them). Then, after they earn a certain # of beads, they can earn things like
- a date with you,
- a small toy they’ve been wanting,
- a special outing to Target for the $1 spot, or
- a water balloon fight.
A school clothes fund for older kids
When Dr Hibbert first mentioned this idea, I was immediately transported back to my childhood. I remember my parents agreeing to pay for the basic school clothes and supplies, but made me earn the money to buy all the trendy clothes I wanted.
I remember at the time thinking this wasn’t fair at all. Parents should buy their kids food and clothes, and why did I have to use my money for something my parents should be buying?
Looking back, this was an amazing lesson they taught me. Buying my own clothes taught me to
- Figure out a budget – how much money did I need to buy what I wanted
- Work to earn the money – I put in a lot more hours working on our family ranch than I would have otherwise (plus, the bonus for my parents was much less complaining about the work, and much more of me asking what can I do to earn more money)
- Be more cautious in choosing what to buy – at the end of the summer when we went clothes shopping, I was so thoughtful about what I wanted to buy and how to stretch all the money I had earned. I remember going into each store, picking out what I liked, and then setting it aside until I could look at other stores and see if there was something I wanted more.
One other thought: I remember my brother not caring AT ALL about the clothes and my parents just buying him the basics. But, he was passionate about his sports, so they centered his incentives around paying for sports camps and sports-related trips. This idea can be tailored to whatever interests each kid has.
4) Make Your Lists
Of course, I will recommend you make a list, I almost always do at some point in every one of my blogs 🙂 Who can survive without a list?
The third step is to create your activity lists.
- Have each family member create their own individual lists that tie back to their goals. This could be a
- habit tracker,
- a chore chart,
- a reading list, etc.
- Create a family list of ‘must-dos’. Ask each family member for 2-3 things they absolutely want to do this summer as a familly, and then make a complete list of bucket list items for the whole family.
- Finally, list out all the other activities, trips, events and camps you have planned for the summer.
- PIN IT: here’s my Summer with Kids Pinterest board, to help you with some ideas.
5) Schedule It
Schedule out the summer so you can maximize the time you have available and achieve what you defined as ‘success’.
I know you might be thinking – I just want to wing it, I’m tired of the routine and the structure, I just want a flexible summer. And you can have that too. But schedule in those blocks of free time.
Be intentional with each day and how you plan to spend it, up front, versus just letting the summer happen to you.
To schedule it:
Fill in the calendar with all the activities from step 3
Include some free-time and determine how that will be spent in advance (e.g. how much screen time do you want to allow each day, if any? what type of electronics?)
You might choose to set some themes
Weekly themes (e.g. zoo week where you go to the zoo, you create animal-related crafts, make cute animal shaped cookies)
- Lazy Monday
- Trips on Tuesday
- Wednesday Walking
- Thursday Cooking & Crafts
- Friends on Friday
When you’re finished, double check your plan against your definition of Success from step 2. Adjust as necessary to meet your vision.
Discuss the calendar with the whole family, including the expectations around screen time.
6) Some Strategies for Success
So now that you have a plan in place, what are some secrets to implementing the plan successfully?
I polled my readers and other moms I respect, and they provided some great ideas for making this the best summer yet!
- Get help. Be realistic with your schedule, especially when you need to fit in your work. You could hire a summer nanny (one of my friends highly recommends care.com; another uses the local college job board), or you could hire one of your babysitters.
- Schedule quiet time each day. This comes from my own mom who reminded me that she would have us go to our rooms to rest or read for an hour each day. She admitted that this time was more for her own sanity than for our rest! (I now know what she’s talking about….)
- Schedule friend time.
- Set play-dates with younger kids, meet friends at the park or the zoo, have friends over.
- For older kids, set a day or two each week that everyone is welcome at your house. Then, have the kids set another day for their friend’s house, to get a good rotation going.
- We’re planning a Friday night potluck/outdoor movie night this summer with a group of friends. So excited for this new tradition!
- Go old school. Have the kids play outside in the mud or in the sprinklers. Go on a mission to find bugs. Keep it simple. The plans don’t need to be elaborate.
- Set kitchen hours. This is another idea from my friend Dr Christi at Motherhood TV.
- She recommends keeping the summer dishes under control by putting names on the bottom of plates and cups and then each person has 1 per day.
- She also pack lunches occasionally, to avoid being in the kitchen 3 meals a day.
- I know I will need to set some specific snack rules, as the boys empty out the pantry every time I’m on the phone.
- Find a go-to strategy to reset. It is inevitable. You will get frustrated, you will get irritated, and you will feel like things aren’t going as planned. Set a plan in advance on how to reset yourself:
- Meditate (I love the Headspace app for this).
- Exercise (find a quick go-to routine you can accomplish in 5-20 minutes)
- Create a playlist
- Whatever works for you – have it ready as a go-to de-stressor.
And finally, err on the side of fun, and even break some rules!
Make this summer memorable.
- Take a road trip.
- Go on a staycation.
- Book that trip you’ve been delaying.
- Stay up late.
- Sleep outside.
- Eat some sugar.
- Get dirty.
Look at this summer as an opportunity for amazing memories, knowing that you only have a few summers left before the kids get too old for family-time.
6 Steps to the Best Summer Break
Download the 6 Steps to the Best Summer Break Workbook...