Week 4: Summer Stress Relief For Moms
Suggestions for keeping stress at bay during the summer when the kids are ever-present, making time for yourself and how to take God on vacation with you this year.
Based on all the responses to “what stresses you out most in the summer”, it is obvious that although the cliche of ‘lazy days of summer’ sounds nice, too much laziness, and specifically the lack of a normal schedule, is a most common stressor!
Like many of you during the school year, I grow weary of our stressful, busy schedule and daily routines. Rising early to the alarm clock, getting the kids out the door in time so avoid another tardy slip, sports practices in the afternoons, homework in the evenings. Yet, when nobody has any obligations, and the only thing scheduled on the kid’s calendar is a bunch of white space, the word “stress” seems to take on new meaning.
When moms are faced with dealing with bored and whiny kids who are ever present, stress begins to grow. When we feel responsible for arranging entertainment for the kids every day… when the house stays in a state of chaotic mess… when the kids are fighting non-stop because they are on each other’s nerves … when we are impatient with the kids because they are on our own nerves… and when we are exhausted at never having any time for ourselves – stress can begin to feel overwhelming and the summer can start feeling more like an ongoing nightmare than an idealized break from normal routines.
Summer definitely has its challenges due to a change in routines (or the lack thereof), especially for moms with young kids, but it is possible to maintain a scheduled atmosphere that keeps everyone sane and occupied. Although it may seem rigid or strict, keep in mind that in the same way you thrive on a schedule, kids do too, and having one might bring peace you never thought was possible when school is out.
If trying to set a schedule for your household seems like an insurmountable and confusing task, below is a sample routine for young children (under 13), with a mixture of planned activities (a few suggestions follow this schedule), chores, and free time:
8:00am Wake up, get dressed, brush teeth, eat breakfast
9:00am Outdoor play/exercise (weather permitting) around the house or at local playground
10:00am Search for nature items for scrap books, nature art projects, coloring (or any project of your choice)
10:30am Research nature item facts, or read books. Visit the local library.
1:00pm Swimming, play dates with friends, swim lessons, video games, go to a movie or naps
3:00pm Do assigned daily chores
3:30pm Free time at home
7:00pm Night-time routine- bathing, tidying up, etc.
7:30pm Quiet activities- reading, drawing, video games (whatever helps your kids wind down.)
8:30pm to later – Bed
If you are one of the many moms who expressed frustration and stress over the lack of routines during the summer, maybe setting a strategic summer schedule for your home is the answer you’ve been looking for. Determine how much structure is needed based on your knowledge of your family and then set a schedule for the morning, midday, and evening routines. Teens are more likely to manage their time well, but you might also need to coordinate a schedule for them as well with higher responsibilities and expectations.
Any time we introduce a new way of doing things in our home, we may be met with resistance instead of acceptance, or maybe even an all out protest. So introduce the new schedule in a positive way, not a drill sergeant type of way. Ask the family if they have suggestions or additional activities to include in the schedule. The more they can contribute, the more they’ll buy into the concept. Give your kids time to adjust to the new schedule, and give yourself time to as well.
In addition to strategically managing your family’s routines, below are a few ideas to consider including on your schedule to help keep your summer less stressed, and more blessed:
– Write out a set of daily chores that the kids need to accomplish each day to help keep the house somewhat tidy and organized, such as making beds, helping with laundry, feeding/walking the dog, cleaning the table or putting away dishes. You could even go so far as to create a poster with each child’s daily responsibilities on it. Consider letting the kids help with the poster so they feel involved and possibly more inclined to abide.
– Spend some time on Pinterest, or purchase some home crafts books, and pick out a few budget-friendly craft projects the kids can work on each day. You can also find great ideas on the internet on various sites, but a few ideas to consider are:
* Create a scrap book of pressed leaves or flowers which they can add to each week. Assign a special time each day for them to go outside and search for new nature items for their books. If they’re old enough to use the internet, encourage them to look up a special fact about each nature item they collect and write it on the page that item is pressed onto.
Tell the kids to collect a variety of sizes and shapes of sticks and rocks, and have them glue them together to make little people, using the sticks for bodies,arms and legs and the rocks for heads, with a face on each rock. Encourage them to create one figure for each member of the family of friends.
* Go to Goodwill, the dollar store or Walmart and buy some inexpensive yarn and a knitting book for kids. Encourage them to make Christmas presents for relatives and get them excited about giving away something they created.
* Purchase old scraps of fabric from a fabric store, or cut up old clothing that nobody wears anymore, and let the kids make different creations, doll clothes, collages, mini-quilts, etc.
* Gather old magazines from friends and neighbors and encourage the kids to cut out pictures from the book, and then create a story to go along with the pictures. They could also themed books (made from notebook or construction paper stapled together), such as all sports, fashion, or cartoons. Another idea is an “all-about-me” book – collecting photos that reflect their personalities and likes.
* Allow the kids to go through recipe books and pick out some recipes that sound delicious to them. Take them along to the grocery store with your list of ingredients needed. Enlist their help in purchasing the ingredients, and allow them to have a hands-on involvement in making the selected dish.
* Have a specific activity assigned for each day during the week so the kids will have something to look forward to. For example, make a craft on Mondays, go to the library on Tuesdays, play dates with friends on Wednesdays, cook a meal on Thursdays, and special outings on Friday’s (like movies or the park).
In addition to to the importance of having a schedule is the importance of helping children learn to manage their emotions and obey their parent’s rules, especially when there is an abundance of together-time. Below are a few suggestions for helping to build harmony in your home, and keep the house extra clean at the same time!
– Create a chore jar. Make a list of normal or special chores or projects that need to be done around the house or yard (such as vacuuming,cleaning out the garage, mowing the yard, dusting all the furniture, wiping down floorboards, etc.). Keep in mind what chores your children are capable of based on their age and abilities. Type the list of all the chores onto a piece of paper, then cut them out into individual slips of paper. Place all the chore slips into the jar. Explain to the children that when they misbehave, they will have to draw a chore out of the jar and complete it before they can play or do something they enjoy.
– Create a rewards jar. In the same way a chore jar is focused on addressing poor behavior, a rewards jar is focused on rewarding good behavior. Make a list of activities, snacks, movies, toys, etc. that would motivate your children to strive for good listening and obedience skills. Type the list, cut out each reward into individual slips and put them in the jar. Set some criteria for what the children need to do in order to pull a slip from the rewards jar – such as no fighting with their siblings for three days or whatever time frame seems reasonable/helping do their chores without whining/keeping their rooms clean/etc.
Having a summer schedule along with behavioral expectations in place in your home has a lot of benefits, including helping moms stay calm, cool and collected. It will not only help your child have a great summer, but it will also help ease the transition from summer to back-to-school when routines come back in full force.
Do you have any tips for creating or maintaining a successful summer schedule in your home that might benefit other moms?