As summer winds down to its inevitable conclusion and camp comes to an end, parents start to fill up Facebook with ever-more-hysterical posts wondering when, precisely, they can look forward to these campers going back to school.
In 2012 at the Huffington Post, Alison Patton summed up the feeling: “This seems to be the over-arching theme of August for me — my shortening temper, impatience with my kids, feeling the stress of what’s to begin in just a few more weeks — and worst of all, that feeling that I’ve failed to enjoy my children this summer to the extent I really wanted to.”
It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few tips to make the last few days of summer happier for both kids and their parents.
l TV and tablets are your friends.
We all know that too much screen time isn’t good for kids. We know that because we read it on our own screens. Grown-ups are glued to their phones, walking into traffic, falling off cliffs, developing back and neck problems. But we begrudge our kids a little screen time lest we somehow ruin them.
When it’s 90 degrees and your kids have spent the whole summer swimming, crafting, getting dirty and running around, it’s OK for them to kick back and zone out for a little while. We all need downtime, and there’s nothing wrong with kids getting it from a screen, as you do.
Most things are fine in moderation and screen time is no different. Don’t feel guilty about planting your kid by the air conditioner, iPad in hand. They’ve earned it.
Let go of the guilt from everything you didn’t accomplish this summer.
Parents start each summer with grand plans for themselves and their kids. I wrote in these pages in July that while my kids were at camp, I planned to read books! To see friends! To exercise!
I did not finish one book or see any friends, and I certainly didn’t exercise. But I managed to have an amazing summer anyway. Look at the bright side of what you and your family have accomplished over the last two months.
Maybe you didn’t hike that mountain or even visit grandma, but focus on those breezy nights when you went out for ice cream, the kids chased each other around and everyone had a pleasant evening. If you haven’t had one of those nights, do it now. Small victories are still victories.
Embrace the uncertainty.
One of the hardest parts of parenting during the time following the end of camp and the beginning of school is the lack of routine. But it’s so rare for kids (and parents) to have unregimented days that this is the time to revel in it.
Don’t overplan, which only leads to disappointment. Let them (and you!) have those luxurious days where no one has anywhere to be or anything to do. Take evening walks as a family, play board games, read books together and watch movies.
Don’t expect things to be perfect. The kids will fight and yell. Lean in to the chaos. Go off schedule and have ice cream before dinner. Live a little. Your kids will remember these times, when the parents were relaxed and their days unstructured, more than anything else.
Use this time to give your kids a little freedom.
Loosen your grip. Summer is traditionally the time kids use to try out different personalities and to grow before returning to their familiar school structure. Encourage that. Let your 9-year-old walk down the block alone to their friend’s house. Let your 2-year-old climb the slide without you standing over her.
Let them have the kind of summer we all reminisce about, where days went on forever and parents were rarely seen or heard.
Summer isn’t over!
If your summer hasn’t been what you wanted, you have a few more weeks to turn things around. Stop worrying about everything and enjoy this fleeting time where you don’t have to make lunches for school, oversee homework or rush anyone to the school bus.
There are so many articles to worry parents. “Are your kids getting enough sleep over the summer?” “Will your kids forget everything they learned over the school year?” Don’t read them. Instead, let the lazy days happen and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.