If you’re a parent working from home while helping your kids navigate the end of the school year distance learning, give yourself a pat on the back.
It’s June, which means the school year is likely already over or near its conclusion. Whether your child graduated high school or made the move up to the next grade, they crossed the finish line.
But now comes a more challenging feat: keeping them entertained this summer. If you’re among the families with kids staying at home all summer with no camp options, the most important thing to do is not place too much pressure on yourself.
“Take a lot of deep breaths and set the bar low,” says Audrey Monke, author of the book “Happy Campers” who has experience as a camp director.
If you’re telecommuting this summer with kids at home, here’s how to give them a camp-like experience:
Don’t worry too much about the screen time
Maybe you feel really guilty about your kids having too much screen time lately. Devorah Heitner, author of the book “Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) In Their Digital World,” says what your kids consume – using screens for educational reasons as opposed to scrolling YouTube – matters more.
“There’s a difference between different kinds of screen experiences,” said Heitner. “I would not look at the total minutes. I would look at the quality of the experience.”
In some cases, Heitner says, that screen time can be helpful for your child’s mental health, such as chatting on a video app with a grandparent or friend or even watching a TV show or movie that lifts their spirits.
Brainstorm potential activities
The first step to consider when deciding what your kids’ routine might look like is assessing your home situation, including what you can do outside. “Can you shoot hoops in the driveway, can you run around the block, can you safely bike,” says Heitner. If outdoor space is limited, consider how to get exercise while indoors.
Encourage your kids to help out more
Another potential activity? Chores. Once kids reach elementary school age, they can do more independently, says Monke. “Trying to navigate our work and family life has really shined a light for parents that we need our kids to be helping more around the house.”
For kids, chores might not be the most exciting thing to do, but Monke says keeping it fun can help motivate. Monke says for her kids, she started a chore draft, where her kids would see a list of chores and select based on a draft order.
“I would encourage parents to think about how they can empower kids this summer to contribute more to the household,” she says.
Parents can even tie those chores – and other activities like reading – to screen time or other fun activities, says Heitner. “You could require any of those things as the passport for a period of some kind of screen time.”
Make time to connect as a family
Monke says one strategy parents can implement is setting aside a “campfire” time where the family gets together to talk about their days. As parents focus on work, and kids are doing their activities, it’s a great chance for everyone to come together.
“It’s a connection thing where kids get to hear about your real life and you get to hear about theirs,” says Monke. “Everyone knows there’s at least one time of day where we’ll all have our attention on each other.”
Keep a checklist
For families intimidated by the idea of sticking to a rigid schedule, Monke advises creating a checklist. Have a handful of items you want the kids to complete every day, and allow them to check them off on paper or a white board. It still allows for some level of structure without being too intense.
“One of the things I always look forward to about summer was the more relaxed aspect of it,” says Monke. “And you can be relaxed without it being a complete free-for-all.”