Its that time of year again – summer vacation! A time when parents everywhere wonder what the heck they are going to do with their kids for 3 months. Gone are the days of handing them off to school to babysit them for 8 hours while you go off to work, we now are met with how we’re going to keep them busy. With the economy being what it is, summer camps are likely not on the table as they once were, and at least not for the length of time they used to be.
So what can you do? If you’re a stay at home parent, you are now spending more time caring for your child than you’re used to. If you’re not careful, the stress of this adjustment can get to you. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to manage these issues, and try to sidestep them in the process. I’m going to use the WATER Acronym for my examples, because heck, that’s what this blog is really all about anyway, right?
Words: Let’s face it, the kids are probably going to try to get on your nerves. Why? Because they want something, and you may not necessarily want to give it to them. As a result, they could try to say things to get you angry. This is where controlling your Words comes into play. Start thinking about how you’re going to respond to your kids before you get into the situation. If your teenager wants to go to the mall all day and skip out on their chores, or wants to sit in front of the computer and play World of Warcraft, they’re going to try to get what they want any way possible. You probably know your kids really well (you smart parent you!), so you know what they are going to say to get this emotion out of you. Have a script prepared for their protests, so that you can be ready for whatever nonsense they happen to throw your way. Keep it cool, and be ready for it.
Actions: These, apprently, speak way louder than Words. What kinds of Actions? How about sitting down with your partner and the children and setting out the guidelines for the summer. Start dialoging with them about what they want out of their summer, but also what everyone’s responsibility is. Sure this sounds like Words, but you have to take the Action of sitting down with them and setting aside a time to do this so they understand what is expected of them, and what they can get if they tow the line and do what they’re supposed to.
Thoughts: I love Thoughts, because we think about so much at any given point in time its scary. Think about what your goal for your children and for yourself is this summer. What do you want for them? What do you want for you? Also, don’t allow your Thoughts to get you thinking that you can’t deal with them, or that “managing children is too hard.” That kind of thinking isn’t going to help you get through any problems you have with them. It will likely get you feeling sorry about yourself. So start telling yourself that you can manage them, and that the summer is only three months. Think about what’s in your control, and what isn’t. Scheduling your children’s summer is in your control. Their reactions to those plans are not. Make lists of what you can and can’t control to keep your Thoughts clear and your wits about you.
Also, tell yourself you can do it! You have to believe in yourself so your children can believe in themselves (ok, that sounded a bit too after school special for me, but…it makes sense, right?).
Emotions: Kids are master manipulators. They know you love them, and they know that you have to take care of them, even if you don’t feel like it at times. They often use parents’ Emotions to extort them into getting them toys, cell phones, computers, rides, sleepovers, and pretty much anything else kids want. Ask yourself: Are your kids try to manipulate your feelings, and are they doing a good job at getting what they want by doing so? If they are, then its time to keep those Emotions in check and think about what they are doing to manipulate your feelings and get what they want. Remember to love them too, of course, but don’t allow them to manipulate you with it. After all, they’re just kids, and haven’t figured out that the world doesn’t revolve around them yet. And even if they do, they’ll still try to change the Earth’s axis so it does!
Results: If something’s not working, its time to try something else. Take an inventory of what you’ve done over the course of the last couple weeks or the last month. Did it work? If so, keep doing it (Do what works!). If some things didn’t work, that’s OK, tweak it and figure out what does. One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to figure out what your kid’s currency is and use that to get them to do what you want them to do. By currency, I mean what they love to do most. If the currency you use doesn’t give you the Results you need, then find something else that does work.
Raising children is the most important and the most difficult job on the face of the planet. Eventually, these kids will be adults, faced with big challenges and harder things than doing their laundry or taking out the garbage. Whatever it is you have to throw at them (aside from any forms of abuse that is) is nothing compared to what they are going to face as adults in the real world.
On a final note, find time to relax. Take some time for yourself away from them so you don’t lose yourself in the role of a parent. If you can find a babysitter or a Boys and Girls Club nearby, it might not be a bad idea to get them interested in it.
What do you think? A little to naive on my part? Any tips you could suggest to parents managing the stress of having children around? Comments and suggestions welcome, because I want to know what you think. It helps me help others better, right?