The parents’ guide to summer survival

For parents and students, May is usually a flurry of awards ceremonies, final club meetings and teacher gifts that ending with the reward of a three-month break. However, summer vacation can cause its own difficulties for parents.

“Parents are often stressed about finding childcare for their kids over the summer,” said Brittney Schrick, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture assistant professor of family life. “They may consider leaving their child home alone, they may need a baby sitter at their home, or they may need a full day care program. That is added expense that can stress families.” Along with added childcare stress, parents may experience more pressure to keep their kids active and limit their screen time.

Schrick gives her tips to help take summer vacation from stressful to stress-free.

Keep a routine. School gets kids into a routine and it’s easy to let it lapse during the summer months; however, keeping some sort of routine in place can help kids thrive.

“Especially for younger children, it can cause stress if they aren’t sure what they will be doing or what is expected of them,” Schrick said. “The routine can certainly be looser, but having a few touchpoints like lunch time or outdoor time as well as going to bed and getting up around the same time each day is especially helpful.”

Travel like a pro.

“Traveling with kids can be very stressful,” Schrick said. “Planning ahead is key.”

If you are taking a road trip, pack a snack bag for each child to limit the type or amount of snack they have access to. It can be helpful to pack toys that they haven’t played with for a while or pack something new for them to play with.

“If driving more than two or three hours from home, take a break and let the kids get out of the car and walk around,” Schrick said. “Maybe take a picnic to a park or eat somewhere with a playground.”

Keep kids sharp. It is important to give kids a break from formal sit down learning from time to time. However, if parents are worried their children may lose some of what they learned in school, there are a few things they can do.

“If you want to make sure they stay sharp during the summer, encourage them to read. Reading is a great way for your child to keep their brain working and ready for next school year, and it helps in all subjects,” Schrick said. To exercise their math skills, try to incorporate them into daily life. Have them keep up with the grocery calculator or do the measurements for baking. It may also help to keep flashcards in the bathroom or car or ask them multiplication or addition facts at random times.

Don’t break the bank. Parents can feel pressure to take kids on trips or activities to curb boredom. This can become expensive. However, there are many things you can do to make valuable memories and beat summer boredom without blowing the budget.

“Explore! Look for state parks in your area,” said Schrick. “A potluck cookout with friends and backyard games can also be fun and inexpensive.”