Your Turn Thursday: How do you keep your kids busy – and yourself happy – during summer break?

staying sane during summer break for moms

My kids get out of school a week from tomorrow. Part of me is thrilled by the approaching summer break: I love the relaxed pace of summer; I love not having to keep up with schoolwork or permission slips.

But part of me is a bit anxious. Because as a work-at-home mom, I count on having at least some of my kids out of the house for some of the day so I can concentrate. Because as a mom of many, I count on having at least some of my kids out of the house for some of the day to cut down on the noise levels. And because as a mom on a budget, I don’t exactly have the cash for expensive day camps.

I’m trying to remind myself that I have survived many summers as a mom, and I’ll survive this one, too. Here are three of the strategies that I try to employ:

  1. Stick to a routine. As much as I like to relax bedtimes and dinner time, one of my biggest summer struggles is the lack of structure. So I function best when I hang on to a routine. Sure, bedtime might happen an hour later during the school year, but at least I know it’s coming. And I try to plan activities for first thing in the morning so that I have an incentive to get out of my PJ’s and start the day.
  2. Small breaks. Since I don’t get long breaks during the summer, I try to grab short ones when I can. A long walk first thing in the morning, when the air is still cool and the birds are singing, is a great way to start my day off on the right path. I also try to identify my most stressful times of the day and arrange for a small break during that time. For example, right before I start dinner I’ll often pay my twelve-year-old son a dollar or two to take his younger siblings to the park behind our house. I’ll straighten up the house for five minutes, then plop into a chair with a magazine and just relax. By the time they get home, I’m in a much better frame of mind. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a babysitter living in your house, a neighborhood kid might be up for the job.
  3. Relax expectations. Yes, I’m a working mom, but it’s unreasonable to expect that I’ll be able to get as much done when all my kids are home all day as I can during the school year. I’m working on figuring out what can go on autopilot, what work I can do ahead of time, and what work can just plain wait until school starts up again.

I’m always looking for new ideas to make my summers more happy, relaxed and low-stress! So I want to hear from you: how do you keep your kids occupied – and yourself happy! – during the summer months?

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