Managing Parental Stress
When school is out for the summer, many parents feel conflicted. It is an exciting time where there is a break from homework, getting up early, catching the bus, and studying for exams. It is also a time where life seems a little busier – or less busy, depending on your lifestyle. Parental stress is a real thing.
Regardless of whether you are happy to see the daily routine of school come to an end or not, there is usually a shift when summer comes. Parents everywhere start to get anxious about how they’ll be the #1 director of helping the kids fill their free-time and still cope with the household and work commitments that they may have.
There are ways to beat the summertime parental stress, however. It gets to most of us as soon as the boredom hits the kids (which is about 3 days into summer!) and the constant video gaming and television watching starts to creep in. Here are some tips for what you can do to help yourself out with your summertime stress and find a relaxed mindset.
Create a Family Calendar
Routine, Routine, Routine. That’s the first step to lowering summertime stress as a parent. When you have no plans in mind and the day is fly-by-the-moment, that is when stress hits the fan the quickest. Develop a plan of attack for how each day during the summertime will go. You don’t have to plan each and every minute, but have a few things that happen each week. One day you go to the library to pick up books, one day you meet up with friends or have a Zoom call with them, etc.
Create a family calendar that lists out what will happen each day and at what time. This will include piano lessons, family dinners, camp sessions, and anything else that happens daily or weekly.
Next, come up with some ideas of what the kids can do with their free time. Can they head to the park, a neighbor’s house or the backyard? Are there items that they can color or create? Add them to a list on the side of the calendar. This helps to give a visual for your kids to look at when you’ve had enough of them asking what they can do.
Maintain a Sleep Routine
During the summertime, many parents get lax about bedtime. It is natural! You don’t have to be up as early, so it is easy to let bedtimes slide. Unfortunately, this can lead to some overtired kids who are now in your presence each and every morning.
While you can certainly adjust the time that your kids go to bed and wake up during the summer, some kids naturally wake up at the same time every day regardless of the time they’ve laid down to sleep. You may not be able to change that and you may not want to (in the long-run).
Do your best to maintain a sleep schedule that allows for you and your kids to get enough sleep to survive the summertime days in a peaceful manner. If you need some quiet time in the evenings, establish a summer reading or writing time. At 8:45pm (for example), everyone heads to their room and has quiet time off of electronics. They don’t need to be sleeping, but it does need to be downtime until drifting off to sleep.
Count on Friends
You are not the only parent dealing with spring break, so it is time to bring in reinforcements. See if you can swap playdates every week so that you can give another parent a break and vice versa. The kids will have a buddy to hang out with and each of you parents has a few moments to breathe.
*During covid, kids can still play in the yard. Maintain the six foot distance and wear masks, but they can have a chalk contest, play with bubble wands, throw a ball to each other, and lots of other activities.
If you have friends and family in your life who don’t have kids and have been asking to babysit or spend some time, this is the opportunity for you to take them up on their offer. Consider letting them have a sleepover at grandma’s house or spend the day cooking dinner for you with their former babysitter. You get some time to de-stress and they will be in trusted hands. Everybody wins.
Take Some Time For Yourself
When there is no school in session, it can be tough to carve out a few moments for yourself. The weight of household and work responsibilities sit on your shoulders until they are completed (but are they ever really finished?) and there is always something else to be done.
You’re going to have to find a way to give yourself a break. If your child is busy with a friend, family member or playdate at someone else’s house, it is time to take yourself for ice cream or go on a hike. Buy yourself the special coffee that you haven’t had since school let out and let yourself get a pedicure. Summer is a marathon, not a sprint, so you need to be kind to yourself in order to get through it without cracking. The laundry can wait until the kids are back home.
It may sound silly, but breathing is good. Not breathing or holding your breath is not good. When we get frustrated, we often hold our breath or start breathing erratically. That is when you need to take a minute.
Your kids will test your patience, test your boundaries, and figure out what time of day you’re the weakest. They aren’t trying to be unkind to you (most of the time), it is just a skill that every kid seems to master. When you take a five minute time out periodically during summer days, you’ll be less stressed and more equipped to handle those moments when your kids seem out of control. Remember that parental stress is real, it is valid to be overwhelmed, and you will get through it.
At these times, it is okay for you to say, I need a minute. Place your small child safely in a playpen, your older children in their rooms or somewhere safe in the house, and excuse yourself to your bedroom or bathroom. Take some deep breaths and look at Facebook on your phone. Read a short article in a magazine or play yourself a song. Get yourself into a more peaceful place in those few minutes and then go back to your children. Everyone needs a “time out” sometimes, even parents.
When you were a kid, summertime may have felt like it was incredibly quick and incredibly slow at the same time. But regardless of what memories you have (hopefully good ones!), your parents will remember it differently.
Summertime is a lot of managing time and emotions in a completely different way than one does during the school year. Paying attention to your level of parental stress is critical for being able to deal with whatever the kids throw at you this summer. Take it one day at a time, use these tips to your advantage, and you should be able to get through it without too much hardship.