By Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D.
For families, June is a busy time with graduation parties, little league championships and music recitals. And we all know that right around the corner is summer vacation - lazy days for kids but often stressful for working parents. So if you haven't nailed down your plans yet, here are some ideas that can help with your work/life balance:
To minimize your anxiety and maximize time with your kids, try to negotiate a flexible work schedule. Even if you only take the odd morning off or leave early once in a while, find someone to cover for you. Downtime to rejuvenate is important for you and for the wellbeing of your family.
Arrange creative child care.
There must be plenty of responsible teenagers in your neighborhood who are looking for a part-time summer job. Or why not organize a co-op or a weekly swap with friends? Don't forget grandparents or other family members who always say they feel bad that they don't see your kids more often.
Plan a staycation.
Arrange a meeting and encourage a discussion about the activities each family member would like. With a democratic process and everyone having a voice, you'll ensure cooperation. Think about visiting a local museum, playing beach volleyball, attending an outdoor concert. If money is an issue, several day trips or weekend camping trips can make the whole family feel recharged and reconnected.
Encourage your kids to use their imagination and discover their own ways to keep busy - a lemonade stand on the corner, watching home movies, planting a small garden, walking the dog, swimming in the community pool. It could be fun to play board games, ride bikes or shoot hoops with friends on the block.
How about having your kids help around the house with jobs that you don't have time for during the school year – clean out broken toys or box up outgrown school clothes. Have them run small errands or go to the corner grocery store. Let them keep the change and buy themselves a treat. They might even like having the independence and responsibility.
Limit Internet use.
You may be tempted to use technology as a babysitter but try to institute some tech free days. When kids have unsupervised access to media, it can be at the expense of their growth. Emerging research reveals that technology can short-circuit healthy development in socializing and learning.
Talk with your kids and listen to what they have to say about their summer reading. Most public libraries support a reading program with some sort of positive end result if all the requirements are fulfilled. And reading is a great habit to nurture. You can build structure by having your teens read to your younger children or even organize an informal neighborhood book club.
If you have to spend a little money on your kids' summer activities, it's in your best interests for a safe, fun environment and your peace of mind. A week or two of camp can build social skills and interests as well as character strengths. And it provides a structured and enriching environment so you don't have to worry about what they're up to.
Your kids have their whole summer ahead of them - no schoolwork or having to get up early. And you deserve to relax some too. With the long warm summer nights, you'll have plenty of chances to spend quality family time together.
© 2011, Her Mentor Center
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are family relationship experts with solutions if you're coping with stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law. Visit http://www.HerMentorCenter.com
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