Summer Slowdown

Summer is almost here…will you schedule and enrich and fill it all up or will you slow it down for your kids this summer break? Well intentioned parents often find themselves over scheduled and overwhelmed again in summer and their kids, exhausted from those early and full packed schooldays, never truly get the break they need. Here’s to finding the balance!

Summer is almost here and many of us parents are rushing to sign up our kids for all sorts of camps before they fill up and we are ‘stuck’ home with our precious (but very energetic) kiddos! Off we go researching and registering for that perfect camp experience that will entertain and enrich our child (as well as wear them out for us!) during the hot (Texas) summer months. Be it sleep-away camp, or sports camp, or dance camp or Lego camp…the possibilities are endless and it is near impossible to not get swept up in it and want to sign them up for everything! Rest assured that I am no different. I love my son and I love spending time with him. I also do not have the physical stamina to keep up with his level of energy every single day, all day. He too will be at camp, every day, and almost all day and I will be grateful when he is returned to me completely wiped out by day’s end!

That said, I want to remind us all that while we want to fill their days with non-stop fun so that they do come home fulfilled and exhausted…

  • We must also build in some down time for them (without the television or iPhone) to just be and to truly just rest.

The concept of just being is often overlooked, as many of us tend to feel that we must continually engage, entertain and stimulate our kids. But just as we often need time to just be, so do they.

  • Time to go within is vital for parents and children alike to rejuvenate, recharge, and vamp up our emotional wellbeing.

According to Gloria DeGaetano, author, educator and founder of the Parent Coaching Institute, the ability to go within is the foundation for a healthy self-identity.

  • “The interior life”, she says, “is to our minds what an enclosed porch is to our house. It’s a place separate from, yet a part of the structure in which we live. It’s a place to meet ourselves and have a good chat…It’s a timeout where we can regroup and understand ourselves better….a place where we achieve clarity and purpose” (2004, p. 96).

Our kids need both the modeling and the opportunity to go with-in during their hurried and full lives and it is up to us as their parents to provide them with such opportunities. A rich inner life affects us in many ways including self-regulation, self-discovery, creativity and inspiration and we must practice it, model it and create opportunities for it with our children!

Tips to encourage going within:

  • Build in quiet/down time into your days that does not involve media, even if this is only 15 minutes of lying down and relaxing after school or camp each day. Turn off background noise so that kids have the opportunity to have their own thoughts. Join them if you can!
  • Build in time for creativity and inspiration – create something out of nothing – be it music, a story, a game or art – always affirming their creative ability as you see it! Encourage an older sibling to make up a game with younger ones or take turns each adding sentences to a story!
  • Create a special place in your home for quiet time and thinking – not just when your child is in time-out but rather regularly. If your child is often given the chance to think and calm himself then even those time-outs will get shorter and fewer because he will have practiced self-regulation. Consider some throw pillows in a section of the playroom for reading, imagining and relaxing!

So as you book your kiddos into weeks of adventure, fun and play this summer, remember to allow for some downtime too, at least in the afternoons! For before you know it, you’ll all be back to the school-year grind again!

Galit Birk, PhD is a PCI Certified Parent Coach® and Owner of CORE Parent Coaching based in Dallas, Texas. She writes regularly for the CORE blog and guest blogs for Dallas Child Magazine’s various blog sites. A version of this piece was first posted in summer 2014.