Summer vacations can be tough

Q: The terror of summer is about to unleash its turmoil in yet another sequence of sibling rivalry, boredom, too much television and late, late nights.

I got the kids registered in swimming lessons for a couple of weeks and our oldest boy will be off to summer camp with his Sunday School Class for 10 days early in August, but otherwise I am stumped. I don’t know what to do to keep my children, all three of them, busy once school is finished for another year.

I am open; do you have any suggestions?

A: I think the real problem for many children is that once school is out they and many of their parents seem to think that July and August are holiday times.

Expectations are down, responsibilities are hidden in the closet and family routines have come grinding to a halt. This is of course a misnomer, but enough families buy into the need for a free-for-all summer to warrant some discussions.

If summer vacations are to be successful for your children, you need to start by appreciating that while your children might have a vacation from school, they do not have a vacation from other corners in their routines.

In fact, routines are more important than ever. Without them, older children sleep in too late, while younger children are romping around far too early. Regular bedtimes are important throughout the summer.

You can give your children an extra half hour from their regular school times and that gives you a little bit of leeway, but whatever you decide to do, you need to do it consistently. Kids tend to be happier, healthier and busier when they are up in the morning and off their cellphones in the evening.

The same is true for meals. Summertime can be a lot of fun: you can have cookouts, wiener roasts (as long as your local nutritionist does not catch you), barbecues and any number of family meals. It works better when they too are built around consistency. And it works even better when all kids take their turns helping in the kitchen and emptying the dishwasher.

That is about it. You set up your routines, monitor the occasional interpersonal feud that is part and parcel of sibling rivalry and you let your children spark their creativity to determine how they might want to spend those few hours they are now free from the classroom.

Most of us as parents try to do too much for the children. We want to enrol them in this and that and everything else that keeps them busy when really, once they have tired of telling you how bored they are, they are more than capable of figuring out what to do once you have turned both television and electronic devices off and left them to their own resources.

It is not that hard, but it does require a little bit of both patience on your part and an intrinsic belief that most children have greater capacities for looking after themselves than that for which we give them credit.

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