School’s almost out around here. My kids just have part of this week to get through. All too soon we’ll be dealing with heat and boredom, swimming lessons, trips to the park, and getting the kids to do more than stare at one screen or another all day. That’s just dealing with the kids, never mind getting some actual work done. Somehow you have to manage that as well. These are some of the things you should consider to make sure you can keep working at home over the summer with your kids around.
1. Talk to your kids about your work needs.
Hopefully your kids are used to you working at home if you’ve been doing it a while. Even so, it’s a good idea to remind them that during the summer you still need to work even if they’re on vacation.
If you’re planning set work hours and a set location in the house, let them know and explain that they aren’t to bother you unnecessarily when you’re working. Lay down some rules so they know when they can interrupt. They may not get it perfect, being kids and all, but it should help.
2. Encourage age and location appropriate independence.
I’m a big believer in encouraging my kids to do things on their own. For my youngest, that’s still limited to things like telling her to go play in the house or the backyard without my help. She’s still too young to go out front without me, even with her siblings.
My older two can go out and play on their own within a reasonable range. They’ve shown they’re capable, and it’s a generally safe neighborhood. They also have rules about how they can play on the computer, and know the consequences for breaking the rules.
Children need time to play independently. They do not need their parents participating in everything they do. Participate some of the time, absolutely, that’s just fun, but remember how much fun you had just being a kid with your siblings and friends, and let your kids do likewise. Hopefully without getting into too much trouble. After all, if they’re happily playing you should be able to get some of your own stuff done.
3. Encourage outdoor play.
Summer’s hot, and sometimes it’s hard to get the kids to play outside. They’re too used to air conditioned buildings. Still, they need time outside.
I usually push for my kids to go play outside first thing in the morning. The sun’s rays aren’t quite so strong then, it’s cooler, and they have energy. Sunscreen is still a generally good choice.
This summer, I’m encouraging outdoor play in a couple of ways. First, we’re planning morning walks to the playground. We have a family camping trip planned for later this summer in Yosemite, so the kids need to get used to hiking. It’s a bit over a mile, mostly uphill, to the nearest playground, so walking there, playing for a while and then walking home should be a good way to get fit for hiking around Yosemite.
Second, I have ways for them to play outside at home. The sandbox has been filled and has toys. We have a Slip ‘n Slide and another sprinkler toy for them to play on. Setting those up will motivate the kids to get outside even when it is really hot… so long as we don’t get a lot of water restrictions this year, anyhow.
Third, I’m setting up a rule for screen time this summer. They have to spend time outside to get time to watch TV or play on the computer. No heavy buildups of screen time with the promise to go outside “soon” either. No carryovers to the next day. Inside play with toys counts neither for nor against. I don’t care who picked the show, if they’re watching it, it counts as screen time.
4. Know where their friends live.
You really want to know where your kids’ friends live, especially the ones who will be home during the day. That way, you can encourage them to all play together at one house or another. Don’t be the parent always sending your kids to someone else’s house; take your turn. Kids with friends over are usually too busy playing with friends to bother you other than for the occasional snack or when an argument breaks out. Hopefully, that’s less often than when your kids are home with just you.
5. Review your work routine.
You should take a look at your own work routine and decide if it’s going to work for you with the kids at home. If you’re used to getting all your work done when they’re at school, for example, how will you cope when the kids are home all day? When will be the best time for you to work now? How will you keep up with what needs doing?
Working at home during the summer often takes a bit more flexibility than when the kids are at school. Be prepared and think about what’s about to happen in your daily life.
If necessary, work more when the kids are sleeping. Pick late evening or early morning, whichever you prefer, and focus on work when the kids are in bed.
6. Get the kids out of the house without you if possible.
It’s wonderful when you can get the kids out of the house without you so that you can work. For me, that’s usually sending them off to visit with grandparents. I get quiet time to work during the day (plus quiet evenings with my husband), the kids get fun with grandparents.
Another alternative is to look at local day camps, if that’s in your budget. While these can add up fast, it’s one way to get the kids out, doing something fun and still giving yourself the day to work. The big question is whether it will be worth it or not financially.
7. Have craft projects available.
Most kids love to do crafts, so have the materials for their favorites readily available. My youngest loves to paint, for example, so her supplies are often just right there on her table, although the water for rinsing the brush doesn’t stay out too much.
8. Be ready for “I’m bored!”
There are many ways to cope with kids who announce that they’re bored. My own favorite is to suggest a chore that needs doing, as there are always chores that need doing. Kids will usually think of something else they’d rather do, really fast. If not, the chore gets done, and the kid learns to not complain too often about being bored. That said…
9. Have kids do daily chores.
When school’s out, there’s no reason for kids to not help out more around the house. During the school year, chores depend on time left over after homework is done. If homework is heavy, there are fewer kid chores to be done.
During the summer, there’s no such excuse, and kids need to do chores so they can learn to cope with all the things a home needs done. Decide what’s age appropriate for your kids.
Some parts of the summer you can plan out in advance, such as swimming lessons, day camps or other activities your kids might participate in, plus any vacations your family may take. Knowing when these will be will help you deal with the rest of the time.
You may also want to pick a particular day of the week to go to the library. Our library has a summer reading program, and has weekly activities for the kids. This is great stuff to take advantage of if you can fit it into your schedule.
11. Be spontaneous.
If your work schedule allows it, take the time to be spontaneous. Go to the water park on a really hot day. Play tag with the kids. Accept that invitation from a friend.