5 tips for a super summer

By Michelle Lunka, MS, LMFT | June 02, 2023 

The temps are up and in Arizona that means one thing…Summer is here! With that comes the (sometimes) overwhelming thought “How are we going to survive 8-10 weeks with no school?!?” It’s true, for many of us, school brings a needed break from parenting and provides the structure kids often need to stay regulated, pleasant humans. While summertime should bring excitement of no alarm clocks, family vacations, and playing all day, at Arizona Family Counseling, we know that summertime is far from dreamy for many families. Here’s 5 tips that we hope will make summertime a little more dream-like this year.

Build in Structure and Routine

No plans or deadlines sounds blissful, but the truth is, kids thrive on predictability. Why do they watch the same movie or read the same book 1000 times? Because they can predict what will happen, and predictability brings security. School routines provide a lot of predictability and safety. You don’t have to run a strict by-the-minute schedule all summer, but you should build in routines and rhythms for the day. For example, wake up around the same time each day, get dressed, eat breakfast, have outdoor play time, snack, family reading or game time, lunch, physical activity time, snack, craft time, clean up, dinner, bath time, bedtime routines, etc. Knowing when they will get to pull out all the glue and stickers or when they will eat again will calm your child’s nervous system and curb the meltdowns.

Be Mindful of Snacks and Hydration

Tired, hungry, or thirsty are surefire triggers unleashing the dreaded screaming, defiant child. Planning high protein, low sugar snacks and meals every 2-3 hours will keep the “hangry” explosions away. We often confuse thirst with hunger, so when your kiddo is begging for food just minutes after a healthy, high protein snack, go for hydration first. Get creative with the drinks to encourage even the most persnickety of kids to stay hydrated. Infuse water with lemons or strawberries, decorate personal water bottles,  have a collection of crazy straws to try, or have a family race for who can drink their glass of water the fastest using a thin coffee-stirrer style straw. You could also search for fun kid-approved “fancy” drinks to try each week to add fun and flexible thinking (and if everyone is searching and helping make it, there’s a little reading practice too!). This Strawberry Yogurt Popsicle recipe is a yummy alternative to hydrate and cool off with. (Did you know strawberries are 91% water?1) Teaching kids to monitor their urine color can encourage drinking up that water and allow them to get in the irresistible “potty talk” younger kids love!

Plan Short Get Always

Long family vacations can be overwhelming for kids. Try planning day or weekend trips throughout the summer instead of one long vacation. Keeping trips 1-3 days in length  allows your child’s window of tolerance to be challenged, but a quick return to the familiar structure of home is reassuring. Including the kids in the planning as much as possible, even if that is simply looking at pictures of where you will stay, talking about the plan for each day, and choosing meals or restaurants ahead of time, will also help add predictability to your time away. Trying new restaurants can be fun, but if there are a lot of new things in your trip, consider hitting up tried and true, favorite restaurants so your child can count on having some familiarity amidst many new experiences.

Set Realistic Expectations

If you aren’t the type of parent that decorates for every holiday and has crafts ready and waiting, don’t try to become that parent this summer. Pick a couple of things to try this summer and know that it’s okay to not be a Pinterest Parent! Dollar store crafts or utilizing old magazines, cereal boxes, and that bin of random, half-used paints will suffice! Ask around and see if other families have books or puzzles to trade. Keeping your kids entertained with novel books, toys, and activities doesn’t have to break the budget. Also, PLEASE know that if you just can’t build one more Lego® city, or the dishes are overflowing at the end of the day, or the kids fight 3,482 times a day…the summer is NOT A BUST!

Remember Presence Over Perfection

Finally, at the end of the day, what matters most this summer, and all year long, is not your ability to be the perfect parent, but your presence. Our job isn’t to solve every squabble, have beautiful perfect family vacation photos to post on social media, or to enrich our child’s intellect so they start next school year ahead. No! What our kids need and want most is to know they are not alone in this world – to have adults in their life that see them, delight in them (most of the time!) and want to be with them. And yes, it’s okay if being with them means you’re folding laundry on the couch while they color or paint at the coffee table. Just not all of the time.

You got this! Our hope is at the end of the summer, you can look back and know that you did your best, your kids are amazing, and yes, there are at least 2 months before the next school break.

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The temps are up and in Arizona that means one thing…Summer is here! With that comes the (sometimes) overwhelming thought “How are we going to survive 8-10 weeks with no school?!?” It’s true, for many of us, school brings a needed break from parenting and provides the structure kids often need to stay regulated, pleasant humans. While summertime should bring excitement of no alarm clocks, family vacations, and playing all day, at Arizona Family Counseling, we know that summertime is far from dreamy for many families. Here’s 5 tips that we hope will make summertime a little more dream-like this year.

Build in Structure and Routine

No plans or deadlines sounds blissful, but the truth is, kids thrive on predictability. Why do they watch the same movie or read the same book 1000 times? Because they can predict what will happen, and predictability brings security. School routines provide a lot of predictability and safety. You don’t have to run a strict by-the-minute schedule all summer, but you should build in routines and rhythms for the day. For example, wake up around the same time each day, get dressed, eat breakfast, have outdoor play time, snack, family reading or game time, lunch, physical activity time, snack, craft time, clean up, dinner, bath time, bedtime routines, etc. Knowing when they will get to pull out all the glue and stickers or when they will eat again will calm your child’s nervous system and curb the meltdowns.

Be Mindful of Snacks and Hydration

Tired, hungry, or thirsty are surefire triggers unleashing the dreaded screaming, defiant child. Planning high protein, low sugar snacks and meals every 2-3 hours will keep the “hangry” explosions away. We often confuse thirst with hunger, so when your kiddo is begging for food just minutes after a healthy, high protein snack, go for hydration first. Get creative with the drinks to encourage even the most persnickety of kids to stay hydrated. Infuse water with lemons or strawberries, decorate personal water bottles,  have a collection of crazy straws to try, or have a family race for who can drink their glass of water the fastest using a thin coffee-stirrer style straw. You could also search for fun kid-approved “fancy” drinks to try each week to add fun and flexible thinking (and if everyone is searching and helping make it, there’s a little reading practice too!). This Strawberry Yogurt Popsicle recipe is a yummy alternative to hydrate and cool off with. (Did you know strawberries are 91% water?1) Teaching kids to monitor their urine color can encourage drinking up that water and allow them to get in the irresistible “potty talk” younger kids love!

Plan Short Get Always

Long family vacations can be overwhelming for kids. Try planning day or weekend trips throughout the summer instead of one long vacation. Keeping trips 1-3 days in length  allows your child’s window of tolerance to be challenged, but a quick return to the familiar structure of home is reassuring. Including the kids in the planning as much as possible, even if that is simply looking at pictures of where you will stay, talking about the plan for each day, and choosing meals or restaurants ahead of time, will also help add predictability to your time away. Trying new restaurants can be fun, but if there are a lot of new things in your trip, consider hitting up tried and true, favorite restaurants so your child can count on having some familiarity amidst many new experiences.

Set Realistic Expectations

If you aren’t the type of parent that decorates for every holiday and has crafts ready and waiting, don’t try to become that parent this summer. Pick a couple of things to try this summer and know that it’s okay to not be a Pinterest Parent! Dollar store crafts or utilizing old magazines, cereal boxes, and that bin of random, half-used paints will suffice! Ask around and see if other families have books or puzzles to trade. Keeping your kids entertained with novel books, toys, and activities doesn’t have to break the budget. Also, PLEASE know that if you just can’t build one more Lego® city, or the dishes are overflowing at the end of the day, or the kids fight 3,482 times a day…the summer is NOT A BUST!

Remember Presence Over Perfection

Finally, at the end of the day, what matters most this summer, and all year long, is not your ability to be the perfect parent, but your presence. Our job isn’t to solve every squabble, have beautiful perfect family vacation photos to post on social media, or to enrich our child’s intellect so they start next school year ahead. No! What our kids need and want most is to know they are not alone in this world – to have adults in their life that see them, delight in them (most of the time!) and want to be with them. And yes, it’s okay if being with them means you’re folding laundry on the couch while they color or paint at the coffee table. Just not all of the time.

You got this! Our hope is at the end of the summer, you can look back and know that you did your best, your kids are amazing, and yes, there are at least 2 months before the next school break.

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