Parenting is one of the hardest jobs we will ever do. As parents, many of us rely on school. We can take a break to recharge, or we can prepare for the mornings, nights and weekends.

So what do we do when summer comes along, and our breaks go out the window? Sending our kids to fun camps, playdates or activities can be helpful. But how do we complete our normal day-to-day activities and provide our kids with structure and nurture? How do we use self-care for ourselves?

These 8 tips can help parents manage the transition from school to summer routines — allowing children to ease into a new schedule.

  1. Be playful with them! 

    Not only does it help our kids transition into summer, but it helps us stay in a good mood. The more we keep the train on the tracks, the more control we have to keep us regulated.

  2. Be as consistent as possible in your routine, and prepare your kids to be flexible.

    Have your calendar printed in the house so everyone can see it. If you have time, plan ahead and add your weekly meals to the calendar so your family knows what to expect!

  3. Be responsible.

    Make sure your kids know what they need to do throughout the summer. And as the parent, be consistent about enforcing their responsibilities.This will help them with consistency and routine, which is something they lose when school is out for the summer. Even if they complain about it, responsibilities help their brains stay organized.

  4. Plan for fun! 

    Once a week, plan a fun outing for you and your kids. It doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive. A sunny day could be perfect for a trip to the park, a scavenger hunt, or a playful afternoon in the neighborhood! Have fun activities tucked away for rainy and slow days, too. Try baking a new treat, creating a new art project or watching a movie together! If your child is struggling on the day your fun activity is planned, be flexible with them and reschedule.

  5. Limit everyone’s screen time until it’s break time. 

    If we expose our kids to screens all the time, then they won’t want to sit back when we want to take a break.

  6. Be proactive, and let your child know that it’s OK to have a difficult transition to a new routine. 

    Every child transitions differently. Teach your child how to do the magic mustache, chair sit-ups or a breathing activity to help them regulate. Let them know that you’re there for them.

  7. Give them some control.  

    Allow them to have control over parts of their schedule. You can always sit down and let them choose a couple meals to put on the calendar! Look at your child as just that, a child, who is learning, growing and becoming independent.

  8. Remind yourself to be patient!

    It’s normal for our kids to have a bad day, or a couple of bad days.It’s also normal for them to be defiant or want control. See what the cause of the behavior is and then attempt to help them work through it. The more we empathize with them — and the less we become irritated — the happier everyone in the house will be.

Samantha Brady, LCSW | Adoption Therapist at Holt-Sunny Ridge

Want more tips? Pam Shepard, supervisor of clinical services at Holt-Sunny Ridge, gives great insight on how to balance nurture and structure!