Kids burn a lot of energy. In summer, when the sun is beating down, school’s out, and you have work to contend with, kids can practically drain your batteries before breakfast.
This is the case every summer, but in 2020, there have been even fewer breaks to recharge. Parental burnout is real, and the overwhelming exhaustion can lead to emotional detachment, loss of productivity at work and at home, and even depression.
If you think you’re susceptible to burnout, make sure you try these ideas and preventative measures to stay sane this summer!
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Low-Maintenance Activities to Recharge This Summer
“Dad’s Day” or “Mom’s Day”
You can’t really tell your kids you need a “me day” and conk out for a while. You can, however, create a family event where the whole day is about your spouse.
This way, each of you can have a turn to rest and take a time out. If you make treating your spouse into a game, your kids will go along with it. Make Mom a bubble bath with wine and candles, treat Dad to breakfast in bed, or send your partner off to a friend’s house for a getaway.
If your kids are below 3 or 4, they’ll need much more attention. You can make Mom or Dad’s Day into just an afternoon or a morning, too.
Try a (Neat) Indoorsy Craft
Staying out in the sun can be draining. Try out an indoor craft you can do in the air conditioning!
There are plenty of cute ideas for projects you can make with kids that won’t trash your house. Ditch the disastrous paint and glitter experiments from Pinterest and try crafts that teach your kids actual skills. They can learn to sew by hand or with a machine with a DIY stuffed animal kit or a precut quilt kit, or teach them to draw, knit, or crochet. If their attention spans are short, you can come back to this craft for a short time every day until the project is complete. Perfect for rainy days!
Pitch a Backyard Kids’ Tent
Camping in your backyard is a classic summer activity for families, but here’s our twist: get a kid’s size tent. If you set up a space for them that’s no-adults-allowed, you get the double benefit of being able to relax alone while knowing exactly where they are.
If your kids like a bit of adventure and they aren’t scared of the dark, keep them out there overnight for a good night’s sleep!
If you think back to memories you treasured as a child, they’re often moments as simple as sitting outside with a sandwich and the ones you love.
Sitting by a lake and eating requires virtually no added expense to your budget, and it’s great fun for both parents and kids. Bring a frisbee, a ball, or some bread to feed the ducks for a revitalizing excursion.
Go on a Cycling Trip
You might think that rest & relaxation is all you need to prevent burnout, but you actually need to be more active to give your body more energy. Exercise is great for mental health, and it’s also great to wear the kids out!
Cycling covers all the basics: fresh air, exercise, pretty scenery, and pure fun. There are cycling trails in almost every community if you search around—for instance, Google Maps has a cycling overlay that shows you what areas of your community are bikeable. To amp up the excitement, you could try electronic bikes that let you zip around town much faster and easier than push bikes and let your bike excursion last a lot longer.
Build a Sand Pit
If you’re not near a beach or the beach is closed, a sand pit is cheap and easy to build at home for a low-maintenance, less-mess beach day in the backyard. Bury some rocks or fake gems in the sand and have your kids dig around for “treasure”. You can watch from the patio and sip lemonade while they make castles and dig moats.
Sand gets everywhere, but you can also make a game out of hosing them down or putting them through the sprinkler afterwards. They’ll love getting drenched on a warm day.
Create a Home Movie Theater
A lot of movie theaters are closed down. Have your kids create their own movie theater in the basement or the living room, complete with concession stands and seat numbers. Assign your kids to be ushers, ticket sellers, reel operators, or concession stand workers, and get them to help decorate the “theater”.
To make the event extra exciting, you can set up an indoor projector. Decent ones aren’t that expensive, and you’ll get a lot of use out of them.
Grow a Garden
Kids love to play in the dirt, yes, but gardening also has excellent psychological benefits for humans of all ages.
Caring for a living thing and helping it grow has been linked to decreased anxiety and depression, and it also makes an excellent tool for stress management. The fresh air and vitamin D is something we all need more of this year. Plus, you can reap the rewards of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Other Ways to Take Care of Yourself
In a piece for the New York Times, Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler, Ph.D. suggests letting go of perfection. In hard times, we can’t always be Supermom or Superdad. If that means not finishing the dishes one night, letting the kids have a bit too much screen time, staying inside and having a lazy day, or getting takeout a couple days in a row, that’s alright. Don’t shame yourself. Shame is counterproductive.
If you push yourself too hard towards perfection day after day, you’re going to drain yourself. Not being perfect is not the same as being neglectful. You’re not a bad parent because you let your lawn get out of control for a couple weeks during a pandemic—you’re human. It’s helpful to teach your kids that parents need a break every so often, too.
Another way to help yourself as a parent during this long summer is to be mindful. You hear this term floating around everywhere lately, but it’s far from just a trend or a buzzword. It’s the act of being conscious and aware of the present moment.
If you practice taking a step back to look at your surroundings without judgment, you can appreciate the little things in life that are worth living for.
Take a moment each day to consider what a blessing your wild little creations are, and remind yourself how lucky you are to have them in your life.
It makes all the effort worth it.
Nobody ever said parenting was easy, but sometimes it feels like you’ve accidentally tripped the difficulty switch to max. Pat yourself on the back for all the hard work you’ve done, and try not to burn out this summer!
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