Some summer routine is necessary and helpful, but too much defeats the purpose. You want to strike a balance, but how do you do that? As summer gets underway consider carefully what's on the family schedule and how much of that you really need to "achieve."
Once a week, take time to look at what's coming, what absolutely needs to be added to the family schedule and what can be taken away. Do you really have to do all of it? Really? Even if you are working outside the home and need a strong schedule to make sure your kids are appropriately covered, is there something you can pull back on to ease the busyness? Thought so.
On any given day, try to limit yourself to only three items on your to family schedule. Morning day camp for your daughter plus meeting friends for ice cream plus an afternoon play date for your son equals enough planning for summer time.
If your goal is relaxation and de-stressing, then leave the smartphone at home -- or at least dismiss alarms and reminders. Actively refuse to allow your summer free time to be intruded upon by electronics. When you do pull out that smartphone to take a photo of your child building a sandcastle, tap into your willpower not to check email and maintain full attention on your family.
Stay attuned to your feelings and your family's emotional reactions. If you start to see signs of stress developing around things like camp activities and the car pool lane or any other summer activity that is supposed to be fun, address it immediately. If your child truly hates the lacrosse camp, the money you lose by pulling him out might be disappointing, but isn't the overall emotional health of the family worth more?
Even though it's summer, there are some aspects of life that still have to happen: Grocery store trips, dentist appointments and the like. Try to bunch up as many of those chores and running around to one day a week -- and try to match it to the weather forecast to accomplish it all on the worst weather day of the week. It may be a busier than usual day, but you'll make up for it in the free time you have the rest of the week.
In contrast to your planned busy day, reserve one day a week for no schedule at all. Nothing on the to do list, no where to go, no "have tos." Coordinate it with the weather if you can, and make the best day of the week a day you and your family can move and do things as wind and whim take you.
If you limit the amount you schedule and allow for plenty of free time, you'll be able to say yes to the spontaneous activities that may make the best summer memories. Your neighbors call at 5:30 and say let's go out on the boat at 6:00? Yes! There's extra room for your son on a weekend camping trip? Sure! You decide to make ice cream and invite all the neighborhood kids over for a sundae party? Yup!
While it may seem incongruous -- and definitely isn't foolproof -- careful planning and active un-planning can help make your summer feel easier and freer for the whole family. Carefully consider the environment and memories you want to make for your kids and yourself and plan accordingly. With a few careful strategies, you'll make the most of summer without running yourself ragged.
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