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5 tips for stress-free summer
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Erin Stewart offers five tips to help minimize stress during the summer. - photo by Erin Stewart
The advent of summer always fills me with equal parts excitement and horror.

Excitement for no schedules, no homework, no evening time crunch.

Horror for the fact that summer is like a stay-at-home mom marathon. We are on all the time. Part cruise director, part caterer and 100 percent referee, moms head into the three months of summer knowing there will be no breaks, very little quiet and a round-the-clock mess.

So, as schools start to ring that final bell this week, here are my tips for summer survival.

1. Brush up on discipline. This may seem counterintuitive because its summer. Lazy days. No rules. Anything goes.

Wrong. Like all good predators, children can smell weakness. So instead of loosening up the reins at the start of summer, I tighten them. My kids know that I am cracking down a little quicker than usual. In fact, my oldest daughter keeps calling it the Era of High Discipline.

But its the only way. If I can get everyone minding well, picking up one activity before starting a new one (I know, revolutionary, right?), and not repeating the same question a million times to get a better answer, then the whole summer will go smoother. Some of my go-to discipline books that I always brush up on when summer rolls around are Parenting with Love and Logic and How to Talk So Kids will Listen & Listen So Kids will Talk.

And if youre like me and your kids are trying this fun new thing where they bicker about everything, check out Siblings Without Rivalry. Each summer, I give myself a quick refresher course on when to mediate or when to walk outside and let them have at it without an audience.

2. Find some structure. I love not having the strict schedule of school, but I also like having some predictability at home during the summer. For us, this simply means having some sit-down time each day where my kids have to complete workbooks, read and write. They each pick an end-of-summer reward if they complete these tasks. This small dose of downtime keeps their brains from turning to mush over three months, and it gives me some structured quiet time I can count on.

I also am trying an idea this summer of posting a list of activities that must be done before getting any screen time. We've narrowed this down to chores, piano practice, workbooks/reading, 30 minutes of outdoor play and 10 minutes of something that helps the family.

3. Make a bucket list. Im sure youve seen all the adorable ways you can make a family summer bucket list on Pinterest. Or, you can be like me, and use a ripped-off piece of the grocery list. Either way, making a quick list of things everyone wants to do or accomplish during the summer is a great way to focus your time and energy when your kids come to you on Day Two of summer vacay whining, Theres nothing to do.

4. Take a break. Dont forget to give yourself some summer relaxation, too. Add the kids to the gym daycare. Go for walks at night with girlfriends. Get babysitters for date night. Do whatever you need to do to find some alone/spouse/friend time during the constant kid circus that is summer.

5. Relax. Now, after all my guidelines, I have the gumption to tell you to kick back, let down your hair and relax. Seriously though, its summer. The reason I take Nos. 1-4 so seriously is because they all lead toward a more relaxing three months. The whole goal of summer is to reboot, re-bond and rebound. So lay the groundwork with a little extra work at the beginning, and then enjoy the fruits. Because those school supply lists will be here before you know it, and then a whole different kind of circus begins.
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