Summer Overload Syndrome hit our family the year Ashley turned 9. Normally an early riser, she suddenly didn't want to get out of bed one morning, begging, "Mom, can I please be sick today? I just want to stay home and do nothing."
That same week my friend's fourth-grader asked when school was going to start. "I can't believe Matt's already tired of summer," Shelly said. "I've worked so hard to make sure he doesn't have a dull moment."
You know, maybe dull moments aren't so bad after all. Summer is filled with activities—day camps, little league, swim teams, Vacation Bible School—but there's a limit to how much "fun" your kids can handle. While each of these activities may be beneficial, too many can lead to Summer Overload Syndrome. It's important that we allow ample time during the summer months for our children to be free—to create, to play quietly, to think, to experience—and to be bored! Interestingly, when kids are bored, they are forced to discover for themselves new ways to fill their time. I doubt that many great inventions, musical compositions and books were created when someone was overly stimulated and entertained by others. Rather, true inspiration comes when we are reflective, pensive and possibly even bored.
With a little careful planning and these practical tips, you can rescue your family from Summer Overload Syndrome.
Choose only one big activity each month. For example, take swimming lessons or enroll in a day camp in July. In August, enjoy a family vacation. By cramming each month with too many activities, we run the risk of overwhelming our children and reduce the chance for growth and creativity.
Plan special activities each week, but allow several days between activities. This provides time for rest and recuperation between events and makes special occasions even more enjoyable.
If you're a working parent, allow several weeks in the summer for your child to stay home. Take a few days off or hire a sitter to come to your home. During this time at home, let your child sleep later, work on craft projects and recover from his organized summer activities.
Allow for creative time with Summer Surprise Boxes. Fill a cardboard box with construction paper, markers, colored chalk, a glue stick, small scissors and a hole puncher. Fill another cardboard box with old clothes, hats and jewelry and yet another box with magazines, tape, glue, glitter, scissors and small pieces of poster board. Let your children use these Summer Surprise Boxes for quiet moments of play and discovery.
Encourage spiritual journal writing. Place a children's Bible and an easy-to-read devotional book by your child's bed. You might also include a blank notebook and colorful markers. Suggest that she spend time reading and recording her thoughts or drawing pictures during quiet times with God.
Instead of a two-week family vacation, opt for shorter weekend trips. These mini-trips work well for families who find it difficult to travel long distances. Several shorter trips also give you something to look forward to each month.
Two weeks before school begins, start your end-of-summer countdown. Use this "down" time to get your child back on a more normal schedule. You can ease the transition to the school year with early bedtime, early rising, more reading and limited television.
Debra Fulghum Bruce lives in Orlando with her husband, Robert. She is the mother of four grown children and is the author of The ABCs of Christian Parenting.
by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today Magazine.