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  • Writer's pictureCary Hamilton

Summer is Here and the Novelty Has Worn Off: Now What?

As we find ourselves in the midst of summer, many of us are grappling with the reality that the initial excitement of the season has worn off. The long days that once felt like endless opportunities for fun can now seem like a marathon of managing energy and boredom. As a parent and a play therapist, I want to share some compassionate and understanding support for navigating this phase with your children.

Finding a Routine

One of the best ways to bring some structure back into our summer is by establishing and enforcing a routine. While it might be tempting to let bedtimes and wake-up times slide, maintaining consistency in these areas is crucial for everyone’s mental health. Children and teens thrive on predictability, and having a set schedule helps them feel secure and grounded (yes, they are supposed to want something different and will push back on principle). Simple things like having them get more sleep can significantly stem arguments and challenging behavior.

+ No technology in the bedrooms- turn off wifi/cell access at night (I do this because my son can be sneaky)

+ Use a fan or audiobooks to help fall asleep

+ Keep it cool & dark

+ Make it cozy

+ Same bedtime every night - then add in the same wake-up

kids on a bridge in summer

Daily Expectations

Creating daily expectations can help balance free time with responsibilities. In our home, we refer to chores or tasks as “works” that contribute to our household community. By involving your children/teen in these tasks, you teach them valuable life skills and foster a sense of responsibility. They need responsibility and accountability. These are serious life skills many young 20-somethings are missing.

Here are a few expectations you might consider:

- Reading Time: Aim for at least 30 minutes of reading each day. This not only keeps their minds active but also provides a quiet break. 

- Screen Time Limits: Set clear limits on all screens. This helps prevent the endless loop of digital consumption and encourages more varied activities. (Parents, I challenge you to participate in this activity too!) 

- Outdoor Time: Ensure they spend time outside each day. Whether it’s riding a bike, reading in a hammock, or simply lying in the grass and watching the clouds. Fresh air and sunshine are vital for their well-being. The term “skychology” refers to the reduction of stress and anxiety we experience when we engage our peripheral vision i.e. looking far away, all around, and close up. Indoor time is lovely, and our brains benefit from a literal change in scenery.

- Physical Activity: Encourage movement, be it through sports, play, or simple activities like walking around the block. Physical exercise is essential for both physical and mental health. For resistant kiddos, try having them draw circles of various sizes and colors in sidewalk chalk. Gamefy hopping and landing in similar colors or award higher points for landing in smaller circles without stepping out. Olympic rules apply: feet together - best points, feet apart or stepping out, points deducted!

- Contribution to Home: Assign daily “works” or chores. This teaches responsibility and gives children a sense of accomplishment. Wendy Mogel calls this “good citizenship,” where everyone in the family is contributing to the overall well-being of the house.

Embracing Boredom

Kids on a bench bored

Boredom can be a significant challenge during summer AND it's also an opportunity. Research shows that creativity often springs from moments of boredom. It’s essential for children and teens to learn how to push through this discomfort. As parents, our role is to acknowledge their feelings, sit with them in their discomfort, and resist the urge to solve it for them. If their brains never learn to have boredom and their bodies never know how to sit in it, their anxiety skyrockets and this seriously impacts their ability to be human later on in life.

Using humor can be a great tool here and you must avoid shaming or dismissive comments. Instead, focus on building connections through shared experiences and inside jokes. This makes the process more enjoyable and strengthens your bond with your child. The stronger the bond and the funnier the inside joke, the more you can bring it out in time of need. Making the hard times so much easier!

Setting Limits with Compassion

Setting limits is an essential part of parenting, and it’s something children actually crave even though they push back against it. Limits provide the structure they need to feel safe and secure. It provides consistency and predictability that decreases anxiety and stress, and thus, they need to push limits.

The ACT (Acknowledge, Communicate, Target) method is an effective way to set these limits:

1. Acknowledge the child’s feelings, wishes, intentions, or desires. “I know you want more gaming time because you’re having fun.”

2. Communicate the limit without using negative words like “no,” “stop,” or “don’t.” “It’s time for a break outside.”

3. Target alternatives by offering choices. “You can ride your bike, read in the hammock, or take a walk around the block for 30 minutes. What do you choose?”

This approach respects their feelings, empowers their decision-making skills, and keeps them connected to you while enforcing the necessary limits for them to be healthy humans.

kids playing in a fountain

Some Final Thoughts

Summer is a time for connection and growth, not just for our children and teens but also for us as parents. By setting routines, managing expectations, and embracing boredom, we can help our children navigate these long summer days with resilience and creativity. Remember, it’s okay if they push back—that’s part of their job. Our job is to stand firm, provide structure, and be present with them through it all.

Here’s to a summer filled with connection, creativity, and memorable moments. 

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*** This year, I will also provide some reading options so you can delve more deeply into the topics I discuss in Summer of Connection.

Amy Pittman's Book Recommendations:

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee was one of the first books I read that normalized parenting challenges in a compassionate and educational way. The perspective from Wendy Mogel that all children are completely unique and totally ordinary helped me reframe my own children’s behavior into the categories of: developmentally normal and opportunities to parent and support. Her phrase, “Don’t pathologize that which is developmentally expected,” was one of the first that reshaped my brain and gave me a new approach to parenting. It also gave me the courage to step back and let my kids fail, let them try and succeed at things that I was afraid of them doing, and introduced me to the idea of calming my own anxiety so my kids could grow.

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief (8+)

If your kids are struggling with finding new things to read this summer, let me recommend this series by Carrie R. Wheadon. This book is for kids who enjoyed Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson series. In this world, unicorns are not fluffy. They don’t rescue maidens, and finding a wild unicorn in the woods is terrifying. However, if you manage to pass the test to be chosen as a unicorn rider at age 13, you get to enter a school that trains you how to wield elemental magic, fly, strategize, compete in the dangerous and exciting Chaos Cup, and build life-long friendships that may help you save the world. Books 1-3 are currently available, and the 4th will come out in October. (Content warning: some violence and battle sequences).


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