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At this point of term, I start to both look forward to and dread the summer holidays – in equal measure. I’m really looking forward to the more relaxed pace, no school runs, no frenzied uniform-washing, no scrabbling around for 50p because there’s a Bun Sale (I mean, who actually uses cash anymore??), no after-school rush to different activities. This all sounds very nice to me.
But past experience has taught me that the summer season with kids at home is NOT a break. Where’s the extended time to read book after book? Where’s the opportunity to put my feet up? Where’s the Pimm’s?
Rather than bemoan the lack of traditional self-care opportunities open to us as parents, I’ve found that the best idea for how to survive summer is to accept the crazy, busy chaos and find ways to recharge within that.
Summer Survival Guide
This post is going to focus on how to survive summer as parents. However, as a large part of our own survival is the well-being of our children, it’s really important to plan out how things will work best for them too.
Check out my 100 Free or Cheap Summer Activities for Kids if you need some ideas (there’s even a FREE Summer Bucket List printable!). Or, if you have preschool age children, I’ve written 10 Ideas for Surviving Summer with Young Children just for you.
And if you have adopted or fostered children, you may be interested in my article for Home for Good: 24 Ways to Win at Summer.
But for now, for the sheer love of our kids and our preference for not wanting to murder them before September, let’s look at how we can engage in a bit of summer self-care for parents: your very own Summer Survival Guide!
(And don’t forget to subscribe here for your free Summer Self-Care Checklist Printable!)
Physical self-care for parents
Our bodies need activity and rest. Be aware of what your body is lacking, and give it just that.
Have we exercised today? If not, then let’s take our cues from our kids and take part in their activity with them.
I mean, if there’s time to go to the gym, run, or do whatever exercise you enjoy, then do that. But if not, then enjoy physical activity with your kids at home or out and about: try the garden, the park, a soft play centre, trampoline park or climbing centre. They’ll love to bounce, climb or run with you, and you’ll get your exercise this way, which as we all know, does wonders for our mental health.
Have we rested today? If not, then let’s sit and put our feet up for ten minutes while they play.
And of course, this Night Owl loves to tell others that they should be getting enough sleep.
I’m rubbish at this, so these are the tips I need to hear (and maybe you do too). Make sure that, by and large, the kids are in bed at their usual times. Get them involved with at least a little bit of tidying during the day so that there’s less for you to do in the evening. Introduce a post-dinner tidy-up session for the whole family, or put siblings on a rota to clear up each meal.
Try to grab a bit of rest in the evenings. If you’re a sucker for getting jobs done while the kids are asleep, why not introduce a daily half-hour slot where the kids know that you’re doing a few jobs. And make yourself switch off screens an hour before bedtime to enjoy some proper rest, and to sleep better too.
Mental self-care for parents
I love my kids dearly, but their interests don’t always match mine. I mean, I love hearing about which unicorn flies the fastest, or which footballers are scoring over 90 on their Match Attax card, but there’s different stuff I want to use my mind for too.
It’s so important to make space for the things YOU love doing this summer season. At this point, grab your diary or calendar for the summer, and highlight any activity which you’re going to engage in for your own enjoyment this summer.
Perhaps it’s a book club meeting, drinks in the pub with friends, a planned spa day or meal out. It may, of course, be the days when you’ll be going to work as usual, giving you the mental stimulation and headspace that you need to survive the rest of summer.
Assuming you already have some mental self-care booked in (if not, address that now!), look at where the gaps are. Is there a whole week with nothing specifically for you?
There may well be more activities you’d like to engage in this summer that haven’t yet been booked in. Go ahead and book them! Make that call. Find the friend who wants to go to the theatre with you. Call the babysitter so that you and your other half can try that new restaurant. Whatever it takes, do it!
But don’t neglect the simpler things you can do at home. Reading, watching a favourite TV show, crafting, DIY, gardening, baking: whatever fills your mind with new ideas and vision, restores balance and helps you feel fulfilled in those things you were created to do well – go and do it!
I highly recommend putting these activities in the diary! Make them non-negotiable and they’ll have a higher chance of actually happening! If your kids are old enough to entertain themselves while you read for 15 minutes each day, let them! It’s great for them to see you enjoying your hobbies; reading especially may encourage them to get their books out too!
Emotional self-care for parents
There are certain people who fill our love tanks, and certain people who – er – drain it. In the nicest possible way.
Don’t you find that kids have the capacity to do both?! In good times, there’s no one I’d rather be with than my kids, enjoying something silly, climbing on each other, snuggling down in front of the TV together.
But in challenging times, I need to find other ways to recharge my love tank!
I think there are two important points here.
One is to allow ourselves to slow down to our kids’ pace. I’ve recently been considering how many difficult moments with my kids are created by them, and how many by me. It’s probably 50:50 (and maybe even that is skewed in my favour).
Simply hanging out with our kids at home – for that is often what they want, it doesn’t have to be something daunting like imaginative play (because WHO actually loves this?) – does wonders for our well-being. Our lives are stressful and our mental health is being destroyed in part because of the unsustainable pace of our lives. So, this summer, why not slow down and enjoy life at your child’s pace?
And secondly: who do you need to hang out with this summer, apart from your kids? If you’re married or in a relationship, prioritise time together. Keep those weekly date nights – you don’t have to go out, but the focused time together is precious.
Which friends do you need to see this summer? Who keeps you sane? Relaxes you? Makes you laugh? If you haven’t already, plan to meet up.
Spiritual self-care for parents
I ended 10 Ideas for Surviving Summer with Young Children by saying that no amount of spa days could provide the self-care for parents that the Bible can.
Never underestimate the extra resources and energy you’ll glean from spending even a few minutes in Scripture! God longs to refresh each one of us, but it’s tricky, because it involves us slowing down and stopping for a moment, yet we have never-ending to-do lists, mealtimes which come around far too quickly, sibling disputes to settle and little ones to help out, so how is this even possible?
I have lots of practical ideas for you in my ebook 15 Spiritual Practices Every Tired Parent Needs to Know – free when you subscribe to Desertmum.
Or you could use a daily devotional guide with a short commentary – easy to fit into a spare five minutes, but life-changing in its impact. This year I’m using Praying through the Bible for your Kids which I’m absolutely loving – and in previous years I’ve really enjoyed Tim and Kathy Keller’s My Rock My Refuge and The Way of Wisdom.
It’s worth it, it really is. God won’t take away the to-do lists, the screaming matches, the screen-time battles or the picky eaters. But He will give us fresh perspective, so we can allign our priorities with His (and, you’ll be pleased to hear, His priorities include rest).
God longs to give us peace about our situation, relieving us of any frustration that we aren’t achieving more, doing more, being better parents. He wants to release us into the type of parents that only we can be: the type of parents to raise the kids He has blessed us with.
No, He won’t get rid of all the things we have to do. But He may just teach us how to approach our families with the patient love that He has for us.
I hope this Summer Survival Guide helps you have an amazing summer – please add your ideas below! And don’t forget to subscribe to Desertmum for your free summer self-care checklist, as well as more sanity-saving articles throughout the summer season and beyond!