School is almost over. It feels like a blessing and a curse. The blessing of having more time to spend with my kids, more fun activities, time romping around outside in the sun, and water sports. The curse of less structure, hearing more of “Mom! I’m bored!”, and a dramatic increase in weeping and gnashing of teeth among my children.
May is also mental health awareness month. It is perfect timing to reflect on what I need to do to help myself (and my kids) have a mentally healthy summer. Here is a list of 4 useful and hopefully creative ideas for sanity. Well, maybe sanity is too lofty of a goal for a summer with 4 kids between the ages of 5-8. Let’s just shoot for survival.
Survival tip #1: If you have a dog, you know that you need to take your dog for a walk daily if not more than once per day. So why are you and your kids any different? Ok, yes there are a lot of differences between your furry friend and your family, but your body is craving movement just as much (if not more) than your dog. Plan on daily movement activities for you and your kids. It will help their body bio-rhythms stay regulated (even with a not-to-routine summer routine), it will help wear them out (who can be disappointed with a tired child at nap time), it gets them out in the sun for some much needed Vitamin D (Vitamin D helps prevent sickness among other things), and it allows them to use a different part of their brain than they would be using in the house (especially if they are getting a lot of “screen time” in the home).
Survival tip #2: Figure out the one thing that stresses you out the most and put a plan into motion to address that issue. For me, that is the explosion of clothing that happens when there are 6 people in a family and multiple changes of clothes daily. My survival efforts will be on doing and putting away 1 load of laundry daily so that it doesn’t accumulate to the overwhelming “Mount Washmore“. It is at that point that I want to cry, and I turn to the very unproductive coping strategy of avoidance.
Survival tip #3: Identify what your major priorities and values are in your family life, think ahead into your summer, and ensure that you intentionally have activities planned that fulfill your values. I find it super easy to just “go with the flow” and get comfortable in my own daily routine. This ends up having the effect of keeping my kids from more unique and fun experiences. Having new experiences is a value of mine that I want for my children. I need to plan ahead for the free days at museums and days at a new pool for me to actually get those done. I know not everyone is like me and living life spontaneously may be a value for some people. I just want you to be intentional about your behaviors matching your values.
Survival tip #4: Ensure your time with your kids is QUALITY (as opposed to just QUANTITY). As a mother, there is almost a societal expectation that I should feel guilty when/if I don’t spend significant amounts of time with my children. And truth be told, if that was how I was wired, I would want to. But I am not wired that way. God has given me significant gifts and abilities that are used outside of the mother-child relationship. Much research on the impact of parental relationship on children has supported that theory that the quality of your time with your children is more predictive of well-adjusted children than the quantity of time. Put another way, spending 12 hours a day with your children may not be in their best interest if you are burnt out and frazzled the whole time verses if you worked out of the home and spent 4 hours each day with your children but were happy and tuned in to them for those 4 hours.