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Summertime Solutions

Answers for those hazy, crazy days

Was it only last month that I longed for lazy summer days, relaxed schedules, sweet family get-togethers, and time to catch up?

Today the kids are bored, there's too little money, not enough fun, too much TV, not enough friends, too many late nights. What happened?

Reality hit. Summer, with its blessings, also brings parents unique challenges. Here are some of the most common?and what to do about them.

I didn't want to hear "I'm bored"?so now our life is a frenzy of activity!

Every parent hates to hear the refrain, "I'm bored?there's nothing to do." But if you overbook your kids in order to keep them out of trouble or from having nothing to do, you'll find yourself plunged into a summer that's stressful for you?and them.

Last summer my friend Amy had her best summer ever with her two children. Instead of signing up for everything in sight, they went for family walks, played tennis, swam laps together in the neighborhood pool, and explored new areas in their city. Because of fewer commitments, they were able to do spontaneous things together?and grow closer as a result.

So plan a day next week to take your family to a nearby park for a picnic. Hike a trail and take some time to meditate on the splendor of God's creation. Say no to that extra park-district class or music or sports lesson and instead take some time to relax as a family.

The kids get to stay up late, but I have to get up in the morning. I'm exhausted!

It's midnight, and your teenager's party is still going strong at your house. What can you do when your kids keep you up?

The issue's balance. It's important to make your home a hangout for your teens and their friends, because then you can control what goes on. Get involved?and make their friends feel welcome. Yes, you'll get tired, but this teen season is a short one. You'll be able to sleep again one day.

Teens need curfews even when they might not have to get up early. Unless there's an unusual reason, we close our house between 11 p.m. and 12 midnight in the summer. Our kids have to be in and others out by then. And declare some nights off and take a breather.

There's a pity party going on at my house about not having enough friends.

Children can be self-centered. But a cure for self-pity is caring for someone else. Brainstorm things you want to do as a family to care for others: visiting a nursing home to pass out cookies, sing, or simply visit; mowing an elderly neighbor's yard for free; volunteering in a soup kitchen or as a candy striper in the hospital. In the summer our children have more time to learn what it means to serve.

My friends Ann and Jim gave each of their teens a special summer project to get their focus off themselves. Mark was to design and build a slate walkway in their backyard. He had to measure, level, and determine the size and design of the slate. His sister Laura redid a bathroom. She scraped the walls, chose the colors, sponge-painted a new color, and added a border. In the process, Mark and Laura learned how to do a good job, and the beautiful walk and lovely bathroom are daily tributes to these kids.

I'm always hearing, "Hey, Mom, I need some money ? "

There's more time to spend money in the summer?and not enough of it!

No matter what age or stage your kids are in, they need to learn they can't always have what they want when they want it. Establish a policy concerning what you will pay for and what they must pay for.

Encourage them to do extra jobs for extra money. Maybe there are some big jobs you're willing to pay for during the summer, like cleaning out the garage or washing windows. Kids need to learn the value of hard work. When they do work, have them tithe 10 percent, save 10 percent, and use the rest for personal expenses. Even if you can afford it, don't pay for their personal summer expenses. They'll be less likely to roam the malls, go to movies, or eat out if they have to pay for everything. Help them become creative in free entertainment.

The house is a mess!

Rotate kitchen duty so that one child is in charge each day. It's his/her responsibility to make sure it stays neat throughout the day. Or assign different rooms throughout the week to tidy up; for example, on Monday, one child's responsible for the living room and bathrooms, while another has the dining room and kitchen. If one of your kids is going to be away for the day, have him trade with a sibling.

It's unwise to pay your children for everything they do. Some responsibilities should be done simply because we are part of a family. Designate a block of time to have a family cleaning party and clean out that cluttered attic. Then celebrate with a trip for ice cream.

Don't let your summer just fly by. When you brainstorm some creative solutions to these unique summertime challenges, they can turn into blessings.

Susan Alexander Yates is author of A House Full of Friends: How to Like the Ones You Love (Focus on the Family) and a columnist for Today's Christian Woman. She and her husband, John, live in northern Virginia and have five children.

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