Summer Simplicity

Sometimes the wide margins of a summer day can lead to wide margins in our parenting style.  Summer often means that the rules are flexible, the routine is less structured, the expectations vary by our energy level. As parents we love the opportunity to relax and let loose. Children greatly appreciate summer as well–the hours and hours of sunlight allowing for play is a great plus. However, it is important they understand that there are still boundaries to their behavior; they are still expected to stay within the limits. Children feel the greatest freedom when they have a clear understanding about the boundaries we are providing.  They may constantly bump up against our limit setting–but that is only to reassure themselves that the limits are still there.

Structure is for the school year–simplicity is for the summer. Here are five simple pointers to keep in mind as you guide your children throughout these wide open months. Finding ways to incorporate these practices will help children to revel in the freedom of the season while feeling secure in the clarity of your expectations:

1. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Ensure that your child is well rested, well fed and has the energy level for the activities you are going to embark on. We want to fill our days with fun in the summer. However, your child will not be able to keep up with your expectations if she is over-tired or hungry or exhausted from other activities earlier in the day.  Know when to end the day and shift plans to tomorrow.

2. Set clear expectations and consequences. Use simple terms and language to explain what you expect during an activity. If your child is old enough, have them repeat what you have said to be sure they understand. If you all decide together that hitting or pushing on the playground will result in leaving immediately, then it will not be a surprise if you have to leave.

3. Follow through on your limit-setting. Having talked about it before-hand, it is easier to follow through. However, there is a temptation to overlook misbehavior when we know that everyone in the family will have to suffer the consequences of leaving an event. In addition, the extra energy it takes when dealing with an angry child in the heat of summer can tempt us to “let it slide.”  Children are doing their job when they push the limits, they are developmentally designed to push us to see if we will stick to what we said. Although their outward behavior would lead us to believe they are spitting angry, their inward psyche is calmed in knowing that the adult in charge will follow through on what was said. This is what builds trust.

4. Choose your battles. We tend to rush to “no” when our child asks us to do something or we see a new behavior. Parents first job is safety, and the easiest way to maintain safety is to limit behavior. However, remember that when you say no, you will have to follow through. Sometimes it is more effective to say “Let me think about that”, and then go over the situation calmly in your own mind. Is there a way to help your child be safe and successful at this new activity? Is there a compromise you can work out with him so that you can feel safe and he can feel adventurous?  Often, if a young child knows you are willing to think about it, he is willing to give you a few minutes to ponder, and ends up forgetting all about the idea by the time you have made your decision.  🙂

5. Get time for yourself. Children have an unlimited store of energy in the summer time. They simply deny that they are ever tired until they drop from exhaustion. It is mentally and physically difficult to keep up with them every minute of every day. Find ways to replenish your own energy store. This may be as simple as a 10 minutes walk around the block. A quiet space of time or a phone call with a friend can do wonders for our own abilities to keep up with our children.



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