Did you read about the heat dome that hit Seattle (I think the whole country was abuzz about it)?
The week before, when a single 80 degree day seemed like a luscious peek into summer weather, my husband Bill and I took full advantage with a “walking date” to the farmer’s market.
We grabbed hot fresh kebabs from a vendor and sat down to eat and watch the packs of local kids running around.
And, I started thinking about summer parenting.
You see, I’m never just watching kids – I’m watching kids, their parents, and how they interact with each other.
Not surprisingly, what each parent did directly affected how the kids were acting.
My brain classified these parents into 3 Summer Parent Personalities:
- the cruise director,
- the hammock + chill parent
- the train conductor
Of course each style has it’s pros and cons.
Curious to discover which one you are? Read on!
You might be a Cruise Director if you plan the whole summer in advance (maybe with a color coded calendar) and pack the days with playdates, community cookouts, summer camps, family hikes and camping, plus a few educational field trips and a little summer tutoring for good measure.
Pros: Kids find it easy to relax into the care of a parent with a plan. Kids also do better when they know what the weeks and days hold. A regular routine and a place where they can see the order of the day creates a sense of comfort and safety for most children. A carefully planned summer can have lots of space for fun, adventure, connection with friends and family, and the stimulation of new ideas. Parents get to show their kids the world and create the types of memories that last a lifetime.
Cons: An overly planned summer can quickly become a frenzied circuit. The Cruise Director risks leaving out the all important summer down time – crucial for rest, play, recharging, and experimenting. Kids can get over-scheduled and over-stimulated with no time to slow down or connect deeply with their parents, siblings, a small group of friends, and most importantly themselves.
Cruise Director Homework: Grab one of those pretty highlighters and create several big blocks of time each week for outside play when your kids can experience the world and their place in it. Then grab another color and block out several chunks each week for quiet restful activities like reading books together, coloring and drawing, watching the clouds go by, container gardening, or splashing in whatever water you can find (local lake? stream? wading pool?).
You might be a Hammock + Chill Parent if you grab a good book, a cool drink, and head outside while letting the kids “work it out themselves.” Or maybe you schedule the afternoon with a friend and sit on the beach chatting while the kids play on their own.
Pros: Everyone gets to unplug from the busyness of the school year. Kids can relax and explore when they have a parent nearby, connected but not managing. This creates lots of space for exploration, creating their own fun, learning how to navigate disagreements with siblings and friends, They get to explore their immediate world at their own pace, make mistakes, get messy. Parents get to relax, re-charge their own batteries, and reconnect with themselves and their own interests.
Cons: Not enough structure and direction from parents can put kids into the alpha role, creating anxiety that manifests as kids trying to boss, direct, control everyone and everything. This parent may not be engaged enough and miss their kids’ early signals for help with getting along, needing materials, making good choices, and managing frustrations before they become volcanic eruptions.
Hammock + Chill Parent Homework: Read (or visit) with one ear on the kids – be committed to providing the structure and coaching they need to succeed at working things out with siblings and friends. Make sure there is space in that hammock for 2. Or 3. Set a timer (and depending on the age of your kid), emerge from your world every 30-60 minutes to join their world – provide a snack, stroll around the block, offer new materials for another emergent activity that will engage them while you dive into your next chapter.
Finally, you might be a Train Conductor if you hold a steady schedule, keeping the family’s summer routines very close to the regular school year plan. Your kids probably attend a summer program or camps that fill their days and you maintain your own regular work and activity rhythms throughout the year.
Pros: Rhythm and routine helps kids feel relaxed and safe. The predictability of the same place and time everyday simplifies life for both child and parent. Kids relax into the care of a parent who has a clear plan and a warm lead.
Cons: With life marching on ever the same, kids can miss the chance to take a break from the busyness of life. Family “trains” running efficiently on time can leave behind the opportunity for rest, exploration, play, unstructured time for discovery. Unless that careful track of the regular life schedule includes time for playful connection and memory making opportunities, kids and parents miss out on deepening their relationships with each other and themselves.
Train Conductor Homework: Shake things up a bit. Get off the main roads of life to explore what else your world holds. Maybe this means getting everyone up a little earlier to grab a pastry and watch birds at your local park before heading off to camps and work. Or planning a sprinkler party after dinner. Instead of heading home for dinner, grab a simple dinner from the grocery store and head to the park for a little picnic and wading pool fun before heading home for bedtime. Let household chores go for a weekend and spend the day in the backyard laying in the grass and seeing the world from your kid’s vantage point.
Everyone needs balance to their Summer Parenting Personalities. To ensure you have the most remarkable summer and arrive at September rested, refreshed, and more delighted with your kids than you’ve ever been, I’m opening up my calendar for SIX Summer Survival Sessions for July ONLY.
If you are looking to create a plan for family for joy, connection, and growth this summer I’d love to help.
Over the course of 90 minutes we will:
Explore your Summer Parenting Personality
Discover your kid’s biggest summer thrills and chills
Plan a simple, sane summer routine
Identify 3 practical parenting techniques to support the success of your plan
In the meantime, big summery hugs to you!
PS: I’d love to know which of the Summer Personalities best fits your approach – write me back and let me know which one describes you!
PPS: I’m a Cruise Director – complete with clipboard, whistle, and sunscreen for all.
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