Okay, you moms out there. Are any of you putting on a happy face about summer…while secretly feeling a little anxious about how you’re going to survive three months of non-stop fun? When it’s all play and no work, mom is the one who gets the short end of the stick. Sooner or later, the house is a bomb, the fighting has reached a peak, and the lack of personal time begins to take a toll.
The Summer Survival Guide for Moms:
1. “I’d Love To Jar.” I got this tip from a Power of Moms retreat in May, and it has worked like a charm. Each time your kids reply “I’d love to” when you ask them to do something, a pom-pom goes in the jar. A full jar means something special, like frozen yogurt or the dollar movie.
2. “Fun Goals.” You know I’m all about goal setting. Summer is a great time to teach this principle in a fun way. At the beginning of the summer, get together with the kids and ask them what “fun goals” the family should accomplish together this summer. This could include vacations, outdoor adventures, excursions to a local attraction, or even a casual water party for their friends (think of the hours they could fill up with the party planning! Even better, consider the time they could spend doing small jobs to earn some money to buy party supplies!)
3. Earn money for school clothes. This is the perfect incentive for the kids to keep up on their responsibilities. Calculate how much their back to school clothes will cost, and decide how much each daily job should be worth so they can afford their clothes at the end of the summer. (This works especially well for girls!)
4. Reading Goals. Make this a paid thing as well. After all, you’ll be spending money for their school clothes anyway. You won’t come out any further behind by paying them for the books they read.
5. “BFSG.” At my house, this stands for “Big Fat Summer Goal.” The kiddos choose something big they want to accomplish – like earning scouting merit badges or making marked improvement at an instrument or sport – and then chip away at it several times a week all summer long. The key is to have a specific measurement for when the goal is done, such as an earned merit badge or a specific piece of music that can be played. (And I’m not opposed to making this a part of the school clothes incentive program, as well. In fact, I really dangle the carrot by making this a big-ticket item, rewarding the accomplishment of the BFSG with the expensive shoes or jeans they have their eyes on. I know. I have no shame.)
6. Establish “Clean House Checkpoints.” Face it…the house is going to be messier than usual during the summer. But you don’t have to give up all together. Establish a few checkpoints during the day when all personal items must be put away, such as after lunch and before bed. Anything left out goes into Gunnybag. (see #7)
7. Gunnybag. This is a little something I learned early on from Linda and Richard Eyre. Gunnybag is a pillowcase-like bag that “eats leftover toys” and personal items. Of course, kids can get them back…for a price. (Trust me, they catch on quickly!)
8. Have a morning routine with the kids. Hold on! Don’t go anywhere. This doesn’t have to be grueling. Simply establish a set time that the day starts, and have it include a few important things. We like to start the day off with a brief spiritual devotional, go over the day’s schedule, and eat breakfast together. It’s relaxed, but consistent, and gives us a grip on the day.
9. The Kitchen is closed! Does anyone else feel like they are fixing meals (and doing dishes) all day long when the kids are home? Starting our breakfast at the same time (see #8) helps our appetites stay on the same schedule. If this doesn’t do the trick, then the kids will sometimes find this sign hung on the fridge: “The Kitchen is Closed!” Like a restaurant, it has hours of operation, and they must come back later when it is open if what they want to eat involves dishes of any sort.
10. Colored Cups. I cringe when I see how many paper cups we go through on a summer day…and I cringe again when I see that we’ve already gone through all of our clean cups by lunchtime. Solution? Buy a set of colored cups, and give each kid a color. Keep them lined up on the counter, and they’ll know where to pick one up (and return it) each time they need a drink.
11. Quiet Time. After lunch, send the friends home and require the kids to spend a little bit of time alone in their rooms. This does wonders in helping the kids get along better in the afternoon.
12. Trick them into getting along. Now I’ve got your attention! To minimize the fighting, we need a healthy dose of preventative medicine. My secret weapon? Get them to do nice things for each other…but you’ve got to disguise it so they don’t realize what they are doing. It doesn’t eliminate the fighting, but when they are nurturing warm fuzzy feelings towards each other, tempers seem to be more on the down low. The following are a few of my best secret weapons:
13. “Service Snowman.” I know – really cheesy name. This obviously originated during the holidays, but it works year-round. Choose a little stuffed animal, give it a name, and let the youngest start by doing something nice for one of their siblings. They leave the stuffed animal at the scene of the crime, and the recipient of the service then pays it forward to a different sibling.
14. King or Queen for the Day. Select one child to be King or Queen for the day. Siblings must treat this person the way they’d like to be treated the day that they are King or Queen.
15. Team Up. Pair a younger child with an older sibling, and give them a fun activity to plan. They can plan the reward from the “I’d Love To” Jar (#1), or part of the “Fun Goal” (#2). Working together on something that they are both excited about will inspire positive feelings towards each other – and hopefully keep the fighting at bay.
16. Stock up. Eliminate unnecessary stress. Make a big run to the store in early June, and stock up on supplies: sun screen, bug spray, bandaids, bottled water, juice boxes, popsicles, paper supplies, and lots of snacks.
17. Pre-pack the car. Keep a tote packed in the trunk, and fill it with jackets, sunscreen, water bottles, a blanket for picnics, and granola bars or other snack. You never know when you’ll need them, and it makes getting out the door a lot easier. And if you have the room, a few camping chairs often come in handy.
18. Menu Planning. Important in both my Love Your Self and Love Your Space program, meal planning is a habit that will benefit both your family’s health and relationships. Not having a meal plan in the summertime practically ensures a lot of fast food and pizza…not good for the wallet or the waist line. Choose a regular time to look over the calendar, plan meals that will accommodate your schedule, and then begin making preparations for dinner while you clean up breakfast each morning (thawing meat, starting the crockpot, mixing up a marinade, etc.)
19. Power Hour. If you do only one thing for yourself this summer, this is it: Get up before your kids and invest in yourself. This is straight out of my Love Your Self program, and it is vital for moms in the summer time. Most of us lose all of our alone time when the kids get out of school in June, and by early August…it shows. Note that contrary to the name, your alone time doesn’t need to last an entire hour. Just carve out some time to care for yourself – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. (Mine is always first thing in the morning, before the kids wake up.)
20. If this list seems really overwhelming, then you might just want to forget everything I just said. As I teach in my Love Your Space program, organization is there to serve you…not the other way around. Thinking ahead and planning can help create a peaceful and fun environment; but remember, in the long run, your treasured memories won’t revolve around a stocked pantry or colored cups.
Ultimately, we organize so we can free ourselves up to have fun…because having fun and capturing moments is what it’s all about. Remember, life is short and you get one shot at it (or in this case, this summer is short and you get one shot at it)…so make it a happy one!