Summer brings longer days and brighter sunshine. In books and movies, it’s a time for love- spending days relaxing and taking romantic strolls. The reality may look a little different for parents. As a parent, I feel very torn this time of year. Part of me is singing Hallelujah at the thought of no more rousing sleepy children up for school and fighting to get homework done. But the other part of me is thinking about months with little routine and kids who may be bored and constantly hungry!
With some creative thinking, summertime can be quality family time you may be missing during the school year AND quality time with your partner in different ways than you can during the winter months.
- Take advantage of warm weather and go outdoors- Do something fun with your partner, like playing mini golf, hiking, dining on an outdoor patio or renting a jet ski together. Take a similar creative view and find family activities that you can only do in the summer-visit a water park, head to the beach or go to an outdoor concert.
- Take advantage of less running- Throughout the school year, our time tends to be filled with the practicalities of homework and chauffeuring. The summer can bring a break from all that. Enjoy more leisurely family dinners on weeknights without having to eat in between activities. Take the kids to a farmer’s market and try a new fruit or vegetable. Extra time with your partner can allow for coming home from work when it is still light outside and do something as simple as sitting out in the backyard and catching up on your day.
- Take the vacations with and without the kids- Enjoy a family getaway at places with a range of activities (from roller coasters to museums) so family members with different interests find something each one likes. Living in the northeast corridor affords lots of opportunities for spouses to visit a winery, a historic site or the city.
- On a rainy day, stay home and look through old photos and have an indoor ‘picnic’. Take out family albums and tell your spouse or kids about where you grew up and what activities your family did. Put your digital photos up on the TV and view the more recent ones on a big screen. Then spread out an old blanket or tablecloth on the living room floor and have an indoor ‘picnic’ free from ants!
- Allow each family member to have a say in the activity or alternate choosing the activity. It’s possible to unconsciously cater to one child’s needs and interests and the rest of the family gets dragged along. Each day let a different family member choose the activity or put out options to vote on (and the parents make the final decision). Explain that a family is a system that needs to work together to function at its best – each member can sometimes lead and sometimes follow, but always with a positive attitude.
- Allow for miscommunication and mishaps. Having expectations can cause disappointment when the reality doesn’t live up to what we envisioned. Taking that one step further – we often don’t verbalize these expectations to the other(s) so they have no idea what we had in mind! No wonder arguments can break out in the middle of something that’s supposed to be fun. Communicate ahead of time and be adaptable when needed. Keep your focus on the fact that everyone’s safe, healthy and you are all together. After all, that’s the whole point