10 tips for a happy family summer

School’s out for summer! Psychologist and expert in gentle parenting Dr Laura Markham shares her tips on making sure the holidays are enjoyable – for all the family…


  1. Set aside some time every day to have fun with your child

Whether it’s running through the sprinkler together on a hot afternoon or counting the stars on a blanket in the backyard before bedtime, do at least one thing a day to connect and have fun. Remember, what matters is always how it FEELS, not how it LOOKS. Your child doesn’t need a complex craft activity, just a loving connection with you.

  1. Find the “sweet spot” for structure

Research shows that children get stressed during the school year from their academic studies, homework, the social scene and all the activities. They really need time to chill and relax. But they also need structure – meaning they need their day and week to have a shape so they know what to expect. For instance, every morning after we play, we do errands or chores together for an hour, and after lunch we have reading time and then quiet time. Every afternoon we run through the sprinkler or go to the pool.

  1. Commit to de-stressing and just enjoying your life this summer

Kids pick up our attitudes. If you’re stressed, they’ll be stressed, and they’ll fight with each other and drive you mad. Even if you have to go to work, can you find a way to dial down your stress for the summer? And if you’re lucky enough to be home with the kids, don’t you deserve a delicious summer as much as your children do? Your positive attitude will create a relaxed, happy mood in your house.

  1. Help your kids develop a healthy relationship with time…

…one that includes the important life skill of being comfortable in their own company without technology. Time is, after all, what life is made of. To help children learn to reclaim their time, set up a Boredom Buster Jar. For great ideas to put in the jar, and more on why it’s good for kids to have a chance to be bored, click here.

  1. Encourage your child to try something new this summer

There’s no time like the summer to dabble, experiment, and play with creativity. Maybe she wants to try painting, or self-defence classes, or horse riding. Maybe he wants to try writing a short story or learn how to throw a frisbee well. New activities encourage brain development and build your child’s focus, frustration management and impulse control.

  1. Strictly limit technology to certain times of the day

When kids are bored and it’s hot outside, screen time has a way of swallowing up all their time. It may be a good babysitter, but we all know that’s not what kids need. The more you limit screen time, the better kids get at finding creative things to do with their time – and the less they nag you to watch TV or play computer games.

  1. Institute daily reading time and regular library visits

Books open the imagination, make time disappear, and give kids a wholesome alternative to screens. (Reading is also highly correlated with school achievement.) Reading to your child develops a love of stories and books, which is what starts them wanting to read on their own.

  1. Be aware that you’ll need some transition time

If your child is starting a summer camp or new childcare setting for the summer, you can expect some anxiety. Take time to play with your child in advance, because those laughs reduce anxiety and will help them feel less nervous that first day. And if your child is just home enjoying some down time, remember that sometimes when kids are released from structure, all those stressed feelings they’ve been carrying during the school year bubble up and they suddenly get a bit highly strung. So be aware that you might have a few grumpy days, plan on a few meltdowns, and make sure to build as much roughhousing and laughter as possible into your days.

  1. Plan some fantastic family memories, even if you don’t have the money or time to head off on holiday

Don’t wait. The key is to get out a calendar and plan the things you really want to do. Start at dinner tonight by asking everyone what they’ve loved most about this summer so far. Then ask each person to pick one thing for the whole family to do that will make their summer complete. Set parameters before you start. For instance, no hotel stays, and the total cost of each activity must be under £20 (or whatever your budget is).

  1. The last week of the summer, print out all your summer photos and make a summer album

Have a little family celebration on bank holiday weekend where you look at the album together and talk about everybody’s favourite parts of the summer. Remind each other of the things that seemed like disasters at the time but are now funny (every family has some of those!). If you do this every summer, you’ll create precious family heirlooms, not to mention a family tradition that will have your kids boasting about how fantastic summer was in their family – and begging to look at the summer albums with you every year, even once they’re teens.

Dr Laura Markham is founder of and author of Peaceful

Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting


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