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The summer school break is a wonderful time, but it can also be a stressful time of year for parents, particularly those juggling work with parenting. I know this because I’ve been there every summer for the last few years, and I’ve picked up some useful strategies along the way that I am sharing with you now.
So here is a quick summer break survival guide for parents, created by a parent who has learnt through trial and error what works best.
Plus, I have rounded up some of the most popular summer break posts on Mums Make Lists to create a summer break survival kit for parents in need of a little support to get them through the long hot days of summer without losing their minds!
But first, here’s the five-step guide to summer survival for parents.
FIVE STEPS TO SUMMER BREAK SURVIVAL FOR PARENTS
Follow each of these five steps to ensure that not only do you survive the summer break, but you actually enjoy it.
1. ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
I totally understand how wonderful it is to kiss goodbye to the rigidity of school for a while and the temptation to completely let routine slide.
But the reality is that kids thrive on routine, even during summer break. While the routine doesn’t have to be as rigid as during the school year, having a loose schedule for meals, quiet time, physical activity, and bedtime can provide a sense of stability – and also be a way of maintaining sanity for parents.
It is also a great way to ensure that kids won’t completely fall out of sync with the school year routine, which means that come the start of the new school year, it will be easier for them to readapt.
2. PLAN ACTIVITIES, PROJECTS AND SOCIAL INTERACTIONS
Summer is the perfect time for kids to explore new interests or dive deeper into existing hobbies. Plan a variety of activities and projects that they might enjoy, from arts and crafts, nature walks, reading challenges, or cooking projects.
In short, summer clubs can be a lifesaver for parents juggling work and parenting. Be warned; the most popular clubs get booked up way in advance.
Also, take the time to organise playdates with their friends in advance, and try to factor in the best times for playdates around work or when you need to get other stuff done without the kids in tow.
It is both great for kids to know they have some fun times with friends in the diary and also great for parents to know that their kids will be happily occupied when they need to work or get chores done.
3. BALANCE SCREEN TIME AND FREE TIME
While it can be tempting to let kids spend whole chunks of the day on their devices, it’s important to set reasonable limits and encourage other activities.
However, don’t rush to fill every moment of your kids’ day. Allowing children to experience bouts of boredom can actually be really beneficial. It encourages them to be creative, become self-reliant, and learn to enjoy their own company.
Designating certain times of the day as ‘no-screen’ periods could encourage this.
That said, there will be days when you are just feeling wrung out, as are the kids, in which case, in my experience, it isn’t going to be the end of the world to set them free on their devices or with sole control of the TV remote for a big chunk of time.
The key is to be clear on what they can and can’t do on their devices. There are plenty of ways to set up parental controls and to ensure that they have positive screen time rather than mindlessly scrolling their way through endless YouTube or TikTok content.
There is a good roundup of ways to encourage positive screen time on mama.codes.
4. MEAL PLANNING
Summer break often means kids are home for three meals a day, plus snacks. This can be A LOT, especially without a plan and especially considering the other demands of the summer season.
I know from the absolute bitter experience of not having a meal plan in years gone by that meal planning can be a lifesaver during the school summer break, even if you can’t bring yourself to keep it up for the rest of the year.
Meal planning helps ensure a balanced diet for your kids and avoids the stress of last-minute meal preparation for you.
If you have a plan, it is also easier to get kids involved in the meal planning and preparing process; let older kids help in shopping for ingredients and preparing meals. Not surprisingly, responsibility can be a great thing for kids’ self-esteem.
I have been around the houses with meal planning; for a while, I found that using a Google sheet was the best way, then I found I could use Trello and that worked really well.
But by far, the biggest breakthrough I had was discovering the Whisk App. This app streamlines the whole meal planning and grocery shopping process to near perfection.
I use it to save recipes and then pull together a plan in the app from those recipes. I then generate a shopping list, still in the app, for those recipes, and then the app sends the grocery list to my online supermarket (Ocado, since you ask). It has cut my time spent on meal planning down significantly to the point where I don’t dread it each week.
5. PRACTICE SELF-CARE AND BALANCE WORK WITH PARENTING
Parenting can be exhausting, and the summer break, when the kids are home all day, can be especially challenging. This is even more true for parents who are juggling work commitments along with parenting.
If you’re working from home, it is really important to establish clear boundaries between work hours and family time, so you can be fully present in each role. I found that the times when I came close to losing my head were when I hadn’t made it clear, either to myself or to those around me, and I felt pulled in every direction.
Setting clear boundaries also helps kids to understand that it is important that you have time when you can focus on work so that you then have time to spend with them.
If possible, work flexibly or consider sharing childcare with other parents to help manage your time.
Now I know this last thought may well have you rolling your eyes, but seriously, do remember to take time for yourself to rest and recharge your batteries.
Whether it’s getting regular exercise, finding half an hour to quietly read a book, or just having a cup of tea in peace, taking care of your own needs will help you stay the distance and actually have the energy you need to make it through the summer break without feeling like you need a vacation at the end of it.
Related: How to stop looking tired
SUMMER SURVIVAL KIT FOR PARENTS
Now have a browse through this curation of summer posts that I’ve put together to help parents navigate the sometimes choppy waters of the school summer break.
Hello, I’m Luci, founder of Mums Make Lists (Est. 2011). Over the last decade or so, I have combined my experience as a mum, journalist and shopping editor to create useful guides and lists of ideas and inspiration to make it easier for busy parents to plan and host kids’ parties and find great gifts. Plus I create beautiful party printables, from invites to party games. Read more.