Summer vacation… kids cannot wait and parents look forward to less structure and fun. But by the middle of July, the dreams of carefree summer fun seem to fade. Why?
Kids love to predict: they want to know what’s coming next so they can manage their behavior. Even though it sounds great to just relax, without a plan in place, kids find it hard to figure out what is expected of them. That is why they continually ask their parents, “What are we going to do today?” Parents just want to wing it, because it is their summer time off too.
So what’s the solution? Not going to the beach because it is too much of a hassle? Planning every moment of the day, so there is no down time?
To survive the rest of this summer, remember that you won’t stress out if you teach your kids what you expect before an activity and leave an activity before your kids are too tired. For example, instead of getting to the beach and saying, “Stop throwing sand. It hurts people’s eyes and we’re not going to McDonald’s afterwards if you don’t knock it off,” remind your child(ren) before you leave for the beach, ”Sand stays on the ground.”
When you finally get to the beach, after lugging everything but the kitchen sink down with you, the tendency is to put your chair down and plop yourself in it even if it only lasts a few minutes. But you’ll get to sit longer if you take the first couple of minutes, when you hit the sand, showing your kids exactly what you do with sand. For example, you can shovel it into a bucket, you can make a drip castle with some water, you can hide your feet, etc. Then say, “And remember the sand NEVER leaves your hands to fly through the air or to touch anybody else’s body.”
Nobody wants to leave the beach. But if you calculate how long your kids can usually last for any given activity, and then cut that amount of time in half, that will tell you how long you should stay at the beach. Water, sun, fresh air, running, laughing and playing all zap children’s energy. And as you already know, once a child gets overly tired, there is no turning back. So prevent problems for yourself and your child by always leaving the beach (or any other summer activity) before you are ready to go.
Finally, try to make your summer routine as similar to the rest of the year as possible, even though the activities are different. In other words, if your child does well in preschool for three hours, don’t do anything longer than that period of time. If your older child thrives on interaction with others for about two hours and then gets bored, or wants to hang with you instead of their peers, respect that!
Enjoy your summer!
Love to hear from you, Dr. Ann