As summer begins, many parents look forward to a relaxing, stress-free two months. They are so happy to be relieved of the pressures of getting their children ready for school in the morning, making lunches and making sure homework gets done in a timely manner. The household looks forward to the less-structured environment and a vacation from routine. I understand and sympathize with this feeling of relief. However, I want to suggest a different outlook.
Imagine using this two months to teach your family the importance of independence, responsibilities and accountability in a relaxing but structured way. What would happen if you created a structured summer experience in your own home? Here are some parenting ideas for helping kids learn – and making the most of – life skills this summer.
Start by assessing the strengths of each child and what they are capable of doing. Your 9-year-old might be able to learn to toast waffles and toast and cut up fruit to prepare breakfast for the family. The older children can sort the laundry and carry it to the wash area. Everyone can make their own beds and make sure the bathrooms are tidy. Older children can learn to wash the family car and the younger ones can help with yard work. Teaching these life skills is some of the most important work parents can do for their children. It’s almost like receiving skills in survival. Create a chart to keep track of everyone’s tasks.
Kids can then take their skills out into the community. Your teens might want to help coach baseball or basketball through a local youth organization, or teach art or sewing. Think about bringing back the homemade skills and creating more imaginative creative and useful talents among our children.
Take things a step farther by putting these life skills to work so that the family can save up for a special treat. This could be a family vacation or some other long-awaited prize for the whole family. Team up with another family or families and host a fundraiser dinner cooked by the kids, or organize a block car-wash event. Everyone remembers selling lemonade at a stand, but what if you created a yard sale with gently used toys and books? The idea here is to get the family thinking of different ways to use their time and skills.
Instead of sitting around the computer or television at night during the summer, let the family have sports night and social activities, or get together with others to write a play, bake a cake or plan a charity project. If everyone thinks outside the box and creates a different kind of summer, we can all have a more meaningful experience.
Esther Simon, MSW, has been a Southern California professional home organizer for 17 years. She is a member of NAPO and a mother of seven. She can be reached at www.traditionalhomeorganizer.com or 310-396-5656.