. Pre-Summer Stress Syndrome

About the time of year when school is about to get out, every year since my first son went to kindergarten, I get Pre-Summer Stress Syndrome.  This is how my feelings go:

1)  Undone Projects. I stress out about all the projects I began since last September and haven’t yet finished.  If I don’t get these projects under control and/or completed by the end of the school year, I won’t get to them again until next September.  It is not very good on my “mama” ego to have lingering “undones” hanging around all summer.

2)  Entertainment Needs. I stress out about all the “entertainment” needed to keep the children actively engaged in order to preserve some sort of order in our “family” life.  Of course, I also want to keep up their mathematical skills, improve their reading skills, help them improve their housekeeping skills, and keep the house in a semblance of control.  (Isn’t is funny how we over-stress?)

3)  A Special Summer. I stress about how I can  make this summer special, different and more perfect than all the rest.  It just seems that every year I am run ragged by the questions, constant arguing, and the needs of so many different-aged children going in so many different directions.  And then there is the early dawn, the late sunset, and the heat that are also part of these precious weeks.

So as a mother, a wife, and a woman, how do you grapple with the Pre-Summer Stress Syndrome sufficiently to plan, prepare, and promote a successful summer?  May I share several concepts which have helped me survive past summers and will, hopefully, make this one work a littler smoother, too?

1)  Walk It Through. Before summer even begins, walk through the routine of your “regular” summer days.  Decide, decide, decide! Set parameters, rules, and other “fences” to keep control.  For instance, decide when breakfast will be served each weekday morning (even for those who have been up half the night in the backyard pup tent).  Also, decide when you will regularly serve lunch.  Work through breakfast and lunch menus.  (This can be done with the help of your children, but write up some guidelines now about the possibilities from which they can choose.)


Decide what housekeeping skills you will teach your children and how you will keep them on track each day until they have completed their assigned tasks.  Decide if and when you will work with their musical instrument practice, mathematical skills, and reading challenges.  In other words, look at your needs and decide upon some logical methods to keep control.

In some families, it has proven helpful to have neighborhood children scarce until after the morning chores are done, the piano has been practiced, addition flash cards have been finished, and some reading has been done.  If there is a sign on the door, say the friendly “please visit us after noon” kind, you will find that others will respect your “summer” mornings more.  Then, knowing that what needed doing is done, you can more freely let your children roam during the afternoon hours.

2)  A Child Per Day. Depending on the number of children you have, assign each child a day of the week.  This means, for instance, that Bradley has Mondays and Thursdays, Monica has Tuesdays and Fridays, and Scott has Wednesdays and weekends.  On their day(s), this child gets to sit in the front seat of your vehicle, helps with lunch (fixing, serving, and clean-up), gets to choose the book you will read after lunch, and has the first turn in the bath tub.  I think you can see just how much trouble this “assign a day” method saves.

3)  Fun Summer Possibilities. Walk through possible summer afternoon activities to keep the mini-monsters occupied on those days when they are not at a friend’s home and have already used up their TV time.  I find it best to label each day of the week with a certain kind of activity.  For example, Mondays-drawing, Tuesdays-visit a park, Wednesdays-library, Thursdays-movie, and Fridays-swimming.  You may not do all these things in any one week, but when a Thursday gets long, by default you can plan to rent a movie (of course, at the beginning of the summer you assigned a rotation so you know automatically who gets to choose the movie “this time”, thus saving pain, fighting, and pouting).

4)  Bring It to a Stop. Finally, try to bring your “current” projects to a stopping place, not necessary done, but at a place where they can be put away until next Fall.  Remember, this is supposed to be a sort of “vacation” time for you, too.  When I come to my stopping place, I often make written instructions to myself about where to start next and where I am storing additional items that belong to this project.  I put everything away and make a note on next September’s calendar to consider this project again.

5)  Make it Grand! Summers are just so important!  Your influence, patience and attention to your children’s needs is the best gift you can give them.  Take them some places, read to them lots, and just sit on the lawn with them under the rain of a sprinkler.  You will enjoy your summer more and they will feel good, too.  You are learning some, working some, and playing some.

I wish you good luck as you approach this summer.  Don’t try to do too much, but do try to over-plan, over-decide, and over-assign as you begin.  Simplify, clarify and focus! Start out with some semblance of control and it will be a better summer.  For sure!



Photo from sxc.hu. Used with permission.

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