5 Tips for Surviving Summertime
Summertime…and the livin’ is easy! Well, not exactly. You lost your best babysitter—school. The kids are all home and the first day of classes seems light-years away. You are faced daily with sibling rivalry, boredom, traveling in the car, tantrums, and bedtime problems. Let’s deal with each of these in turn.
You start by accepting the fact that sibling rivalry is universal, aggravating, idiotic, useless, intense, and persistent. So get used to it! It won’t go away, but it doesn’t mean your children are mentally ill or that you are a rotten parent.
What to do: Don’t always feel like you have to intervene. See if the kids can work it out. If you do intervene, hold both children responsible for the conflict unless one is the obvious, unprovoked aggressor. Also, never ask the question “Who started it?” Separating the combatants to different rooms for ten minutes can be helpful.
Sure, you can help the kids structure parts of their days. Regular activities like camp, summer school, and athletics can help. But you are not the resident entertainment committee. As the children get older, they should be more and more responsible for their own activities.
What to do: When the kids come up to you and say “I’m bored,” don’t take the bait and start suggesting alternatives that they shoot down one by one. The correct response is “I’m sure you can think of something.” Then keep quiet. Or get out your list of household chores and let them pick one!
Traveling in the Car
Long vacations with long car rides need some advance planning, but—believe it or not—so do short trips. You want to (a) prevent sibling conflicts and (b) provide a chance to brush up on reading or math skills.
What to do: Each child should have a separate book or device, which is available every time you go out in the car and only for use in the car at those times. Electronic games are OK, but, if possible, ebooks, paperbacks, and educational games are preferable. For longer trips, of course, movies are fine and they do chew up the miles!
Tantrums are usually caused by kids getting frustrated (by you!) in three different ways:
1) You won’t give them something
2) You won’t let them do an activity (e.g., watch TV).
3) You want them to do something they don’t want to do (e.g., take a shower).
What to do: For items one and two above, you are legitimately exercising your parental veto power. Remember that a good parental veto is short and firm, it offers one explanation (if necessary), and it is followed by silence—not pleading, begging, nagging, or more explanations. For item three, check out your 1-2-3 Magic Start behavior tactics, such as setting up routines using praise, timers, and charts.
Don’t feel bad; we’ve all done it. You were religious about bedtime during the school year, but you’ve gotten sloppy during the summertime. Your summer bedtime is now 10:00 p.m. sharp—plus or minus 45 minutes!
What to do: Get religious about your summer bedtimes. Here’s one way of doing it: Bedtime is 10:00 p.m. Got to bed at 10:15? Fine. Bedtime tomorrow night is 9:45.