A Parent's Guide to Summer
by Mark Vogel, Psy.D. x318

We all look forward to summer, right? What's not to like? Warm weather, vacations, outdoor activities, and longer daylight hours. Less stress, more fun. Okay, so maybe this view is a bit naïve. The fact is parents may not look forward to summer as much as their kids do, since summer presents its own parenting challenges and pitfalls. Following are some tips to combat these potential problems:

  1. Make kids accountable. Kids love being out of school (and understandably so), but this often means more work for you, the parent. Depending on their age, your kids may have an endless list of places they want you to drive them, or activities they want you to fund. Having your kids around during the day also means more work to keep the house clean. Meeting these demands without getting something in return may result in the parent becoming overwhelmed and resentful. Yes, summer is supposed to be a time of fun for your kids, but it's reasonable to expect some help from them. Make lists and schedules of jobs or projects (cleaning, painting, yard work) for your kids to be responsible for, and stick to it. Creating the list and assigning tasks will take a little time and effort, but it's well worth it. Spreading the responsibility around will help everyone: You get some help, and your kids get a sense of contributing to the household.
  2. Make summer meaningful. It's easy to just "hang out" all summer and let the time slip away with watching TV or playing video games. Talk with your kids about goals or projects they may want to accomplish - for example, do a certain amount of reading; learn a new sport or musical instrument, improve on an existing skill, or just learn more about something that interests them. Check your park district schedule for music or sports camps, or classes, which are offered during the summer. Besides providing structure, such activities provide a sense of accomplishment and enhance self-esteem.
  3. Beware of overly ambitious vacations. If you don't already have a regular, tried-and-true vacation spot, you need to be more mindful of planning sensibly and keeping your expectations realistic. For example, a vacation with too much emphasis on sightseeing or on visiting locations with historic significance might be a big mistake. While the thought that your kids are learning something on vacation may be appealing to you, their complaints of boredom will certainly not be, and you may end up disappointed and resentful that they don't appreciate it. By the same token, avoid trying to do too much. A jam-packed itinerary can easily create pressure, stress, and frayed tempers. Remember the idea of a vacation is for the family to enjoy their time together. Keep it simple, and focus on those activities, which everyone will get some pleasure from.