I’m excited to share with you this survival guide I wrote three years ago. At the time, my kids were 8, 10 and 12-years old. It’s amazing how much they have changed in just three short years. Time sure does fly. Enjoy your kiddos. Motherhood is hard work, but what you do day in and day out matters more than you’ll ever know. Here’s your survival guide…

Honestly, I dread the beginning of summer. For nine months my kids cruise at a high altitude of school work and activities, but once they begin their countdown to summer, the plane they’re cruising in begins a fast descent toward the land of Too Much Free Time and Boredom. I’ve learned, though, that the tools I use to prepare the landing strip will determine the success of the sudden impact.

I’ve put together A Mom’s Summertime Survival Guide with 11 Tips To Help You And Your Kids Have The Best Summer Ever. Please share this with every amazing mom you know.

1.  Just like a playground, create a summer that is relaxed and fun, yet has enough structure (aka: routine) and boundaries (aka: rules) to keep your kids thriving and safe. Picture a playground for a moment. The spacious ground has play structures and grassy areas in place where kids can run and play freely. But boundaries are also put in place to mark where they need to stop and listen for mom’s instruction.

The moment my kids fling themselves from the school bus on the last day of school, they think summer is a free for all. No rules. No work. All fun. Oh how they squirm when I call a family meeting and lay out the routines and rules for the summer. We’ve been talking for weeks about all the fun we’re going to have. Now it’s time for Mom’s sanity-saving “If you want to live to see the end of summer, you better listen up” speech.

Keep reading to learn about some of the structure and boundaries I build on our summertime playground of life. We’ll address the fun stuff first.

2.  Don’t be your kids’ cruise ship director. Equip your kids to entertain themselves. I am not my kids’ cruise ship director, meaning that I am not responsible to create fun for my kids 24/7. I fully expect them to entertain themselves and I tell them so; however, if I give them a few ideas and buy a few inexpensive items, I can help them find more success in this expectation. Below is the link to a great blog I found with ideas to keep us mom’s from hearing the mind-numbing siren, “Moooooom, I’m soooo boooored!”

Here are 29 Dollar Store Finds That Will Keep Your Kids Busy All Summer: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mikespohr/29-dollar-store-finds-that-will-keep-your-kids-busy-all-summ#.beqjpln9LN

3.  Take advantage of free or inexpensive programs, camps and adventures in your community. A couple of summer’s ago, my kids and I decided to be tourists in our own city. We had so much fun together and created wonderful memories. We visited spray parks, bike trails, downtown fountains and walkways, plus cool parks. We even rode the subway and incline. Also, our local library, along with its summer reading program, offered classes on things like painting, writing, nature discovery, star gazing, and karate. My kids made some great new friends and gained a love for the library. Another way I held onto my sanity was by signing my kids up for a couple Vacation Bible Schools or community camps. While my kids were having a blast in these programs, I got a couple quiet hours to do whatever my little heart desired.

4.  Host a play date at your house or a local park. Another idea to get some free fun is by hosting a play date at your house or a local park. Set up a picnic; let the kids shake up some homemade ice cream; create an obstacle course; get out the sprinklers and side walk chalk. Although it might create some extra noise and chaos, children are so much more creative when they’re in a group, and you will at the very least get some sympathetic company from the other moms who came to the circus…er, um, I mean, play date.

5.  Manage your kids screen time by requiring reading time. If your kids are like mine, it’s like pulling teeth to get them away from the iPads, video games and television. Every summer, I require my kids to earn their screen time. For every minute they want to be in front of a screen, they must read for the same amount of minutes. Since they don’t want to read for any more than thirty minutes to an hour, their screen time stays within my desired amount. My kids tell me I’m the only mom who enforces this “completely unfair rule”; however, you can imagine my elation every time I read this exact tip from parenting experts. And yes, I do enjoy showing the articles to my children and reminding them how lucky they are to have me for a mom. And yes, they do roll their eyes at me and groan.

6.  Have a zero-tolerance policy for excessive whining and fighting. My three kids are each two years apart. Sometimes they are best friends and other times they are each other’s worst enemies. I absolutely cannot handle listening to their constant whining, fighting and tattle-tale-ing. Just yesterday, I hollered at my daughter with the frazzled threat, “If you don’t stop right now, I’m going to rip all my hair out and throw it on you!”  I wish you could’ve seen the horror in her face as she visualized the playing out of that scenario. I told my kids that if they aren’t able to work out their differences within a reasonable amount of time, they will be put in separate rooms until they can find their good attitudes.

7.  Require your kids to share the load by doing chores. I am not my kids’ personal maid. Yes, the revelation of this fact makes them moan and thrash around on the floor like a mad shark out of water, but kids need to learn that a family is a team. Teaching kids the life skills of making a house a home is invaluable. My kids have certain chores they are expected to do simply because they are part of our family, but I also have a list of chores they can do to make money. There are so many things they want to spend money on in the summer, so teaching them to work for their income not only keeps them from begging me for money, but helps them learn to make a budget and choose their purchases carefully.

8.  Incorporate a quiet time into the day’s routine. It is healthy for kids and moms to have time in their day when they are alone and quiet. Although the kids might not agree, quiet time fosters creativity, peace and rest. On most days in the summer, I create space in the afternoon when we each go to a separate room or a blanket under a tree and have some downtime. This is a great time for kids to get in their reading minutes. For little ones who can’t read yet, borrow books-on-CD from your local library.  When my daughter was a preschooler, she loved playing bake shop or restaurant with her baby dolls and stuffed animals. I allow my kids to create their own activity during that quiet time. The only rule is they must be alone and quiet. I will warn you that this is the hardest tip to implement. If your kids can’t handle an hour right away, try working up to an hour by starting with twenty minutes. Be prepared to stick to your rules because they will test you repeatedly. But once they know they’re not going to win, they will settle into the routine.

9.  Incorporate YOU time. I know this can be hard to do, but it is so worth creating space and time for yourself. You’re a better mom when your body, mind and spirit are healthy. Since I could never afford a regular babysitter, I made time for myself during our daily quiet times, while my kids were at Vacation Bible School and by getting up an hour earlier than my kids. Yes, sometimes that meant getting up at 5am. If you’re a night owl, maybe it would work better to stay up a while longer after putting them to bed.

 Another idea is to arrange a Kid Swap. One year, I arranged a Kid Swap with a friend. Once a month, she would take my kids for an entire day and then on another day in the month, I would take hers. It was wonderful having six or seven hours all to myself.

10.  Make time for your adult relationships. We are created for deep relationships, so make this a priority. Go on a fun date with your husband at least once a month. If you can’t afford a babysitter and don’t have grandma close by, then make arrangements with a friend to, once again, swap kid-watching duties. Making your marriage a priority will build your friendship with your spouse and create a more loving home. Kids need to see their parents loving each other.

 And don’t forget about your girlfriends! Your husband cannot meet all your emotional needs. That’s why God gave us each other. So plan a night out with the girls! Blow the dust off those sexy high heels, put on some make up and let your hair down!

11.  Last, but not least, grow your relationship with God. I absolutely cannot be the mom, wife and woman I need to be if I don’t spend time with God each morning. I discipline myself to get up before my kids and spend time in Bible study, prayer and worship. There’s nothing that gives me more wisdom, strength, patience and self-discipline than soaking in God’s presence and direction. The wisdom of Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

One final note for your morning quiet time. Resist the urge to get on social media first thing in the morning. Bible teacher and author Lysa Terkeurst says, “Exchange whispers with God before exchanging shouts with the world.”

Sweet mom friend, I pray you have not just the best summer ever, but the most blessed summer ever. Getting to be a mom is an awesome privilege and calling. There’s no harder or more wonderful job in all the world. I pray peace will fill your home and love will overflow. Now go and hug those kids of yours because in a blink of an eye, they’ll be grown up raising families of their own. God bless you! Remember to share A Mom’s Summer Survival Guide with all the amazing moms in your life!

Anna Frye is a speaker, author, television producer and founder of the Chosen and Crowned tribe. She invites moms and wives to celebrate imperfect progress fueled by the grace of a perfect God. She helps women bravely talk about the messy places of life, instead of hiding shamefully under them. She believes that lasting beauty comes when women courageously surrender their ashes to God and allow him to do something miraculous with them. If this resonates with you, then you belong with the Chosen and Crowned tribe. Connect at www.ChosenAndCrowned.com/blog

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