I remember the first time that I experienced summer break as a parent. I was working full time for my professional organizing company and that same year was able to increase my workload and take on more clients since my identical twin daughters were going to school for the full day at this age. I was finally in my groove and had discovered the balance of juggling my career, running a business, and managing the lives and schedules of my family. And then came summer.
It’s comical to think back to the time when my naivety actually believed that my summer days could be spent poolside with my children as they entertained themselves until it was time to go to bed (in my daydream I also had time to read a book and take uninterrupted bathroom breaks and meals). I hadn’t really considered just how life and priorities continue to go on even though the seasons shift. Of course, I’m sure there are plenty of lucky ones out there who are able to afford this lifestyle, but in reality my life in the summer doesn’t get easier...quite the opposite, actually.
As a parent, my perspective of summer changed. I had grown accustomed to our school year routine and with this change came so many considerations. The only way I got through that first summer was with systems. For many kids, summer feels like a long weekend usually packed with some fun changes of scenery (i.e. trips, camps, etc.) peppered across the months. I quickly learned that in order to cut down on summer stress (mine, mostly!), I had to have processes in place to make things go smoothly..and fun!
For our family, that means having supplies accessible for kids to pack their own camp bags, and designating a place for flip-flops, bug spray, sunscreen and pool towels. And everything (I mean everything!) goes on a large calendar where the whole family can see it. Everything from camp schedules to family trips, (I would say family vacations but we all know that when traveling with kids it never feels like a true vacation..) should be marked on the calendar to serve as a visual reminder of what’s to come (fun!) and to also to get the laundry list of events out of your mind and onto paper.
Sure, there are lists of to-dos for every trip but it doesn’t all have to fall on your shoulders at the parent, really! A great way to include kids in the pre-trip planning and activities is to make it fun. Turning packing into a game (“How quickly can you grab XYZ?”, “How fast can you pack your toiletries?”, etc.) will not only be enjoyable for the kids but also get a few little tasks off of your plate. The most important packing must-do? Starting early. Don’t leave it for the night before because you’ll already be tying up loose ends and inevitably something else may come up unexpectedly to add to the chaos.
Overall, for our family (and hopefully yours), our summer is that much less stressful because we do involve the entire crew and have systems in place along with a routine that the entire family can contribute to. We also use getting and staying organized over the summer to our advantage and have more time for fun activities we enjoy!