School getting out for the summer presents some challenges for work at home parents. Suddenly the kids are home all day and want to do things with you. This makes it really difficult to work sometimes, while still being the mom or dad you want to be. It’s time to make plans and prepare to work at home over the summer so that you can continue to be productive.
1. Review your work routine.
Taking a look at your work routine is an important part of preparing to work at home over the summer. Is it 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. Working when your spouse is home and able to be in charge of the kids can also help. Use daycare if that’s what it takes.
2. 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 about it 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.
This shouldn’t be much of a problem with older kids but can be challenging with younger ones. Your younger children may need more attention than you can afford with your work at home requirements. Consider if daycare is necessary. It can be better for all of you. Do what’s necessary to have a productive work at home day.
3. Encourage age and location appropriate independence.
I’m a big believer in encouraging my kids to do things on their own. When my kids were young, they could play out back on their own. They’re old enough now that they can play out front, ride their bikes around the neighborhood, or even go to the store for a treat on their own. The youngest can’t go to the store yet on her own, but with the prospect of getting some candy or ice cream, it’s easy for her to get a sibling to take her when she wants to go.
These are privileges they’ve earned. 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 of 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.
4. 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. But outside play is healthy and should be normal. Think about how much of the summer you spent outside as a child, despite the heat.
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.
There are a lot of things you can do to encourage outside play. When my kids were younger, we would walk to the playground in the morning. That got the urge to go there handled at a time of day we all could stand. The walk would also tire them out a little, as it was over a mile and mostly uphill. Funny thing, no matter how tired they were on the walk, they always had plenty of energy for the playground itself.
Make sure you set up a lot of ways for your kids to play outside at home. If you have a sandbox, make sure you have some great toys for it. A cover is also a good idea to keep any local cats from using it as a litterbox. If you keep your sandbox in a shady area, it can be used for much of the day.
A Slip ‘n Slide, sprinklers, water guns and other water toys also help get kids outside and playing. Most of these won’t cost all that much money. Water play is the perfect way to get kids to outside and play no matter how hot it is. If you have a swimming pool or easy access to one, so much the better.
You may also want to set up a screen time rule for the summer. Have your kids play outside before they can watch TV or use other devices. No heavy buildups of screen time with the promise to go outside “soon” either. No carryovers to the next day. This rule keeps them wanting to play outside earlier in the day, with the promise of being allowed to relax indoors when the day is at its hottest.
One trick my kids tried early on was to each claim screen time separately, and watch the shows someone else had picked. They soon found out that it didn’t matter who picked out the show – if you watch it, the time counts as your screen time.
5. 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.
If you’re lucky, your kids will have some friends within walking distance. That’s not something my kids have had often, but it’s such a help when friends have been that close to us.
Of course, the time it takes to drop kids off with a friend can be worth it if you get more work time.
6. Get the kids out of the house without you if possible.
When my kids were younger, we lived close enough to grandparents that we could send the kids off to see them. It was a huge help. These days, I have to come up with other plans.
While we don’t live close enough for daytime visits to grandparents, we sometimes send the kids to spend several days with them. This works pretty well, although the planning is difficult at times.
One 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 financially. Many camps are expensive. Of course, the kids will enjoy the experience as well if you choose the right camp.
As they get older, of course, expect your kids to do things on their own in the local area without you. It’s good practice for when they head out on their own.
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.
We keep better craft supplies for the older kids, as well as a soldering kit and other challenging activities. The craft supplies you need will depend on age. The older they get, the better quality the paints we get for them.
Make sure your kids understand the safety rules for crafting as necessary. My kids are allowed to use a glue gun, for example, and that gets very hot. They know that they can get burned by it and that if they ever leave it plugged in after use, they will lose all use of it.
Crafting sometimes means allowing them to use a computer, phone or tablet to look up ideas or instructions. So long as that’s what they’re doing, I allow it. Our screen time limits aren’t meant to limit their access to information, after all. They’re meant to limit the time spent sitting, staring at a screen and doing nothing else.
8. Be ready for “I’m bored!”
There are many ways to cope with kids who announce that they’re bored. For the most part, it’s a good idea to tell them to go figure out something to do. This is especially important when you need to work.
Children need to learn to entertain themselves, especially without staring at a screen. If you always give them ideas for what to do, they will keep relying on you for that rather than using their own creativity. The whole point of having a lot of things available to them is so that your kids can find things to do when they’re bored.
But there are times when it’s easier to give them ideas. That doesn’t mean your kids will like your ideas. 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 to be done. Decide what’s age appropriate for your kids.
We have some chores that must be completed on certain days. Dishes are daily, of course. Some of their assignments alternate weekly, so the same person isn’t responsible for the same job all of the time. This keeps away arguments over whose chore list is the hardest. I found that alternating weeks saved arguments over alternating days. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose track of who did what when it changes daily. Change it weekly, and everyone knows who’s on duty. Keep it age appropriate, of course.
My kids get assigned weeks to either help make dinner or make it entirely on their own, depending on skill level. The kid on duty also has to help with the grocery shopping, with the oldest being responsible for planning almost the entire list. They also get to plan one dessert a week, which they really enjoy.
Solid planning can help make a great summer for your family while still giving you time to work at home.
Start out with the things you absolutely must get done, such as the work time you need. Add in planned family vacations. Then take a look at the most important things you want to add in.
I insist on swimming lessons for my kids until they reach a high enough level, for example. While we don’t have a pool, another family member does, as do some friends. The ability to swim is a safety issue and a major part of water safety. You may have other activities for your kids that you consider a priority.
On the fun side, my youngest loves to go to Movies In The Park, a local event where they show a popular movie at the park one night a week. It’s great fun, and we make plans to meet with friends there so the kids can play before the movie.
Libraries may also have fun activities for the summer. Our local library has reading challenges as well as special events. The kids have been able to meet interesting animals there, watched magic shows and more.
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. Make a special treat. Have fun during your workday when possible..
It won’t always be possible to be spontaneous. That’s what happens when you work at home over the summer. You have responsibilities. Take care of those, and make time for fun when you can.