Whether you’re a parent who embraces the carefree, unscheduled weeks of summer or one who dreads the chaos of summer camp chauffeuring and later bedtimes, the transitional period between the end of the school year and the beginning of summer break can create major pain points for families.

Change is both hard and inevitable as the seasons shift. For families with school-aged children, the onset of summer break is a period of upheaval in daily routines. Fear not! There are things you can do now to make the transition smoother.

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1. Set a Summer Rhythm

Schedule. Routine. Agenda. Call it what you will, but they all invoke a feeling of rigidity. Now, maybe that’s what you need this summer, and if it is, you do you. But most folks tend to view summer as a more relaxed season of the year. Enter the Summer Rhythm. It’s like a routine, but more chill. A summer rhythm guides your day with some order and predictability, but doesn’t restrict you with set durations or deadlines. A summer rhythm helps you, your kiddos, and child care providers know what to expect without making your days feel set in stone.

How do you build a summer rhythm? Remember: keep it simple, and nothing is permanent. If it’s not working for you, change it! A second summer rhythm for child care days may be a good idea if days with a nanny will look a lot different from days with mom or dad. Even if your days won’t vary much, it may be helpful to collaborate with your child care provider to build out a rhythm that works for everyone. Here are some summer routine ideas to inspire you:

    • Breakfast and morning chore
    • Daily activity/outing
    • Lunch
    • Quiet time
    • Snack and free play
    • Showers and screen time
    • Dinner and bedtime
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2. Get the Kids Involved in Planning

Once you’ve established a summer rhythm, it’s time to decide what activities you’ll plug into your days. With three months of wide open days, summer can feel overwhelming. There’s so much to do. So many days to fill. And yet, it feels like there’s never enough time to do everything. Make summer planning a family affair. Get everyone involved. Yes, even the children! Start by identifying what matters most to you and your kids. By knowing what you value the most this summer, you can fill your time with the things you really want to do and not feel guilty when declining invitations that don’t align with your priorities. Here are a few questions to ask your kids (and yourself!) to get you started:

Hang your answers somewhere prominent in your home and use them to guide your summer planning.

3. Set Expectations Ahead of Time

We have an easier time with changes when we know what to expect. Setting expectations for the summer in advance can help ease the tension that comes with the upheaval.

  • Will you expect your kids to help more with chores while they’re not in school? Start that conversation today.
  • Will you trade bedtime stories for staying up late to watch for fireflies? Talk about how that will feel now.
  • Will there be days when your kiddos need to entertain themselves while you work from home? Make a plan together.
  • Will you have a regular nanny this summer or a once-in-a-while babysitter? Involving your care provider in the conversation will help kids feel more secure and calm.

Setting expectations, making a plan as a family, and talking through feelings ahead of time won’t guarantee there are no meltdowns later, but it can lay the groundwork for a more peaceful transition.

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4. Give Yourself Some Grace

Change is hard. Change is hard for grown-ups. And it’s REALLY hard for kids. Any time you are transitioning to something new, there will be hiccups. There will be resistance, chaos, and, of course, there will be whining. So give yourself and your kiddos some grace.

  • Under-schedule those early days (or weeks) of summer.
  • Give yourself wiggle room for tantrums and overtiredness as everyone adapts (parents included).
  • Build in flexible time to linger longer at the park or scrap plans entirely and make it a movie day.

The school-to-summer shuffle can be a stressful time for families. By getting ahead of the game and starting now, you can reduce the likelihood and intensity of future headaches. Whether you’ve got a full-time nanny this summer, part-time child care, or it’s Camp Mom, creating a plan, establishing expectations, and naming what matters most to your family will give you a headstart on an epically fun season together. Once you’ve mastered these tips for the summer transition, you’ll find yourself applying them to the back-to-school season and other periods of change!

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