The school year has finally drawn to a close. For your kids, this means no more homework, no more school schedules, and unlimited free time. For a lot of parents, however, summer means something else entirely. Endless “I’m bored’s”, a messy house, and kids pushing the limits are just the start when it comes to summer parenting challenges. So how can you keep your sanity while providing a fun and healthy summer for your kids?

Scheduling

Suddenly free from the rigid routine of their school life, kids have a tendency to really cut loose. You might find them resisting their usual bedtime, pushing the boundaries on curfew, and trying to eat whenever and whatever they want to. It’s important to find a middle ground here. For instance, give them an extra half hour on bedtime, but insist that they join the family for the usual 6:00pm dinner. Let them stay out an extra hour with their friends if they’re willing to clean the kitchen the next day. Summer should be fun, but it doesn’t have to be a lawless free-for-all.

Activities are another important part of scheduling. You might be tempted to fill up every hour of their summer with camps, trips, and sports, but keep in mind that you are the one carting them around to all these things. Avoid burning out your children or yourself by spacing out the activities. By spacing out big events, you also give your kids something to look forward to without testing the limits of your own endurance.

Keep it Simple

With your kids all to yourself for a whole summer, it can be tempting to fill the time with all kinds of huge plans. While there’s nothing wrong with a big family trip to Disneyworld or Alaska, keep in mind that a lot of kids will respond just as well to quality time with you. This is particularly true with younger children, but even teenagers might like to spend a night per week watching movies with the family. You can absolutely keep summer affordable and easy without boring your kids. Consider low-impact activities like camping trips or a day at the beach. These laidback activities will strengthen your family ties while keeping your kids active and engaged.

Chores, Even During Summer?

Having your kids around all the time can wreak havoc on the cleanliness of your home. Having kids in the house constantly means more laundry, more dishes, and more general messiness for you to deal with. But your kids can also be helpers. Delegate some of the chores around the house to your kids and connect it to their privileges. This might be a system you already have in place during the school year, but it becomes even more important as kids are cut free for the summer. More work and less time away from your kids can create sky-high stress levels and it’s vital that you take care of yourself too. There’s nothing wrong with asking your kids to lend a helping hand, and it can create order out of the chaos that summer can bring.

Cut the Technology

During the school year, you might have common-sense limits in place regarding technology. Video games only after homework, or TV one hour per day, etc. Without homework to moderate your kids’ technology consumption, they have a tendency to go ape with the gadgets.

A good way to separate kids from their devices for a while is to create a designated quiet time in your home. Maybe it’s an hour before bed or a couple hours in the afternoon, but choose a time each day where technology turns off and everyone can retreat to their own personal space with a book or an art pad to relax. Not only does this give kids some time to exercise their brain with reading or other hobbies, but it provides you with a much-needed respite from the clamor of their games and TV.

Practice Self-Care

Let’s set aside the kids for a minute and talk about you. As a parent, you’re the one holding all of this together and it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself between entertaining your children and driving them around. Take the time to ask yourself what self-care means to you. How do you relax? Maybe you do yoga, work on art projects, finish some home improvement projects, or go running. Whatever you do to relieve stress becomes twice as important during the summer months.

Don’t neglect your biggest ally in the summer season: your partner. A unified front is the best way to tackle any parenting challenge, and summer is no different. Just because the kids are around all the time doesn’t mean that you and your spouse shouldn’t have time to enjoy each other’s company as well. Set aside nights for dates, concerts, or even just a dinner in town. Use the resources you have available and get yourselves a babysitter from time to time. A great thing about summer is that the older kids are out of school too and probably looking to make a couple bucks with their free time! Call up the neighbors and see if their kids can watch yours while you have a relaxing night on the town. You deserve it.