Mindful Caregiving and Summer Vacation

In the Peanuts cartoon episode of the last day of school, Linus gets off the bus and exclaims, “I’m going to watch TV every day!”  For many families, the words alone, “summer vacation” triggers thoughts and feelings about this pending transition. Summer invites us to get in the sunshine, swim, rest, read and more. With extended daylight and relief from school schedules, families often spontaneously overdo in the name of fun and summer opportunities. While this is a time for making memories and feeling unrestricted, this can also lead to family dysregulation and daily upheaval. When we approach opportunities and summer recreation with an awareness of the positive and negative impact, we can limit the dysregulated energy leading to reactive behaviors from our kids and in our families. While we all may feel more relaxed in the summer, kids still need the co-regulation from our oversight and awareness in daily life in order to participate and enjoy social, physical and emotional growth opportunities. On the other hand, many of us, as parents, can feel overwhelmed with the lack of summer structure for our kids and the commitment to our own schedules, which don’t follow the school calendar and our stress can unintentionally add to our children’s dysregulated states. Summer is an opportunity to practice mindful caregiving with an awareness of our own energy and availability first, to guide the family activity in a regulated, productive way. In addition to monitoring our own emotionally regulated or dysregulated states, there are additional skills we can practice to help guide our families into a summer of opportunity and fun. 

Balancing Routines and Expectations

As soon as the last school bell rings, families quickly shift into summer gear accommodating new schedules for work and family.  We squeeze in a vacation before our kids prepare to arrive at camp or daycare. Many of our kids are moving so much more than usual and they need more fuel and more rest. The added daylight and scheduled activities can interfere with the evening routines. As these rituals begin to fade and we sacrifice sleep in the name of memories, it catches up with all of us, children and adults. Sleep deprivation is a primary factor in our ability to regulate our emotions, feelings and behaviors. It can become very stressful when sleep is disrupted and caregivers have less patience and executive function to be present in a non-reactive or activating way, unable to provide the co-regulation as a foundation for their unraveled kids. Consider not letting sleep routines get off track from more than two nights in a row.  I always say, “ I’ve got nothing on sleep,” it’s essential and we need it to function well and enjoy life. To be mindful when caregiving is to be clear in communicating with the family that we will have late nights, but also will maintain nights where we practice our evening routine.

Summer Skill Building

When we are mindful about our routines and expectations, families can accomplish so much during the summer just in the daily routine. Sometimes, summer is a great time for family support and or individual therapy for kids because kids and families seem more available without the rigid school schedule. The physical, social and emotional demands of camp, vacation, and family events are all opportunities to build skills with family expectations, routines in the home and all activity outside of home. The opportunity to build and improve basic skills in executive functions, (list) and self regulation are also setting the framework for families to practice all summer long.

Tips for Summer Practice

 

  • MANAGE Screen Use with BUFFERING Summer Activities. These activities are proven to offset the negative impact from media and include taking time to read from a book, listening to and playing music, being mindful in nature, and moving your body by biking, swimming, walking, or playing. 
  • PREP FOR TRANSITIONS. Engage family members with planning, packing, and choosing items that support them as they cope and manage their time and needs when traveling and navigating the changing environments and living spaces.
  • CREATE Predictability with Daily Self Care and Chores. Wherever you are traveling use rituals from home to create a foundation of familiar structure in unfamiliar places or among new people you may visit.
  • Communicate the basic schedule changes or plans in small incremental doses. Give small bits of information as needed, daily to minimize anticipatory anxiety or overwhelm.

Reading this can be part of your process in practicing mindful caregiving which includes thinking ahead and some planning to ensure you have your emotional regulation and organizational anchors as a parent. These skills help to co-regulate those around us and keep the flow positive throughout the days and weeks when kids are depleted, insecure, unsure, and growing so much physically and mentally.  

Reach out at roomtomove.com if you are looking for support with emotional regulation and organizing practices while creating family time and activity this summer.