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Parenting 2.0: School's Out, Now What

The end of the school year is stressful for us parents, but no need to panic. We just need to keep them busy for two months.

My daughter and her “pack” have already started mapping out their summer social strategy complete with sleep over schedules, concerts and many other time consuming plans.

As a kid I remember the smell of summer. I remember deep breaths of freshly cut grass, the simmering asphalt and the burning of charcoal from backyard barbecues. I would get my first whiff as I walked out of school as the last bell rang.

School was out and I was free. Two months back then seemed like an eternity. I remember falling asleep in my bathing suit after late night swims and waking up as late as I wanted. Those were the perks of summer. It all seemed so simple back then.

So now it’s the end of the school year and I’m freaking out. I know I’m not alone when I say that because now I am a parent.

With the last few days of school winding down and summer vacation upon us, many parents and students may feel a bit overwhelmed. OK, I mean totally frazzled. Finishing up last exams, cleaning out lockers and attending school ceremonies symbolizes to parents that our safety net is coming to an end.

My inner voice asks what the heck am I going to do with my kids all summer long?

As parents, we rely on structure and schedules and the school year tends to give us that piece of sanity that keeps things manageable. It can be stressful trying to figure out how to keep our kids occupied and responsible during their long break.

I stress TWO months!

We put pressure on ourselves feeling obligated to fill every waking moment with fun and excitement for them for fear they will be bored and our homes destroyed.  I imagine coming home from work to find my walls painted with my kids' rendition of Picasso…and I shudder (house rules are a must)!

Kids+Boredom= Disater (Let's not go there).

Moving into summer isn't easy for all kids. The end of the year can also be emotional for students. The beginning of summer may mean the end of seeing some classmates and activities like Glee or Drama Clubs. For students transitioning from elementary to middle or middle to high school, it means saying goodbye to favorite teachers and a place that they felt comfortable with for several years. The anticipation of charting into new territory while starting out at the bottom of the food chain can really get a kid worked up.

But I must admit, as a parent, it will be nice to have some relief from all the craziness that comes with school like; studying for tests, carting kids to sports practices several nights a week and getting kids up early and out the door on time. This does not mean, however, that there shouldn’t be any type of plan. In fact, planning is all part of getting everyone in the family mentally and physically ready for summer.

For working parents or not, summer camps may be the answer to keeping a schedule while offering kids a myriad of activities and social interactions. Consider attending several specialized (science, nature, sports, art) camps to keep things interesting.  A good camp will send your kids home absolutely exhausted. That's not a bad thing.

For middle school kids or older, this kind of structure may be less desired.  Setting up a schedule with friends and planning local activities each week can ensure there is not a lot of idle time to be bored (or get into trouble).

Summer doesn't have to be expensive. Consider spending time at having a picnic or riding bikes on the trails. Visit the or . Many museums and cultural centers offer free or low cost events all summer long. Spend time at the beach with friends or hang out at the pool.

Check out our events calendar for a listing of events that will keep your family busy all summer long. There are also many organizations seeking volunteers. It’s a great time to expose kids to a cause that they can take part in.

So as we adjust to the next few weeks of working out the kinks of not having our normal schedules, try to embrace a slower pace. With a little planning, a few house rules, and creative ideas, you and your kids can have a fun filled and stress free summer.

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