Happy summer! I’m just back from a two-day silent meditation retreat. It was the perfect recalibration for me at the perfect time. And, it involved a full-on digital detox, as discussed in last week’s love letter. Although I love me some gorgeous summer days, the fact that we’re having some beautiful summer days doesn’t change the fact that many folks are challenged by stress. In fact, statistically, summer is THE most stressful-feeling season for working parents. As a working parent myself, I’m not terribly surprised by that statistic.
So what’s a working parent to do?
If you’re someone that likes video, you can watch my recent interview on CNN’s Headline News HERE, where we talk about precisely this subject. Be sure to pay attention to the tips given on the background screen as that is where most of the juicy information is given. If you like to soak in your Mind Savvy® tips via print, read on.
First, we need to honor the fact that the change to a summer schedule can feel challenging, mostly because transitions are hard. With my clients (and myself), I suggest 5 tactical tips and 4 mindset shifts to help parents set boundaries, free up time, and manage the stress of the summer break from school.
Summertime Working Parent Survival Guide
5 Tactical Tips to Reduce Working Parent Stress
Free up some time via the first three following tactics, and then use that found time to honor tactics #4 and #5: self-care and some connected time with your kids.
- The To-Don’t List
The To-Don’t List is the flip side to your To-Do List! List out your top 3-5 biggest time wasters – for instance, social media, picking up after your kids, watching hours of TV every night – and commit to not doing them for a week. You’ll be astounded at your found time and will likely find your life is actually better and less stressful without them. And kids of any age learning to pick up after themselves is an important life skill.
- Get Help
A Little bit of help goes a long way! Use Instacart, Amazon Prime and Meal Prep Services whenever possible. Hire as much help as you can afford (Mother’s helpers, summer camps, a hired caregiver, a driving service, house cleaners, etc.). If money is tight, ask a parent friend to do a summertime child-care swap with you. Or call a college kid home that’s from break who’d love to provide childcare for a summer job.
- Set Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries and physical self-care are two of the most important things that working parents can do for themselves. Boundaries means that we are clear – both with ourselves and others – what is okay for us. Both at home and at work. I’ll give you a personal example. I need unplugged quiet time to myself every day, or my mind doesn’t work right. My kids know that every night, I go in my bedroom and close the door for 20 minutes in bed with a heating pad and a book – and I’m a better mother if I get that uninterrupted quiet time. Boundaries also means setting up clear boundaries with your employer about your engagement on email, text, and phone during non-work hours.
Many parents have self-care last on their list, when putting it first actually reduces stress. Care for your physical body. Food choices, sleep, hydration, and exercise are all powerful influencers of your ability to remain healthy, to stay centered, and to manage stress. Simply starting your day with a nutrient-dense breakfast, some meditation, and/or some exercise can be a game-changer!
- Joyful connection
If kids are securely attached to their parent, they really don’t need us 24/7. What they do need is daily meaningful connection – how much of that they need is dependent on a lot of factors, including their age and personality. Put distractions aside and do something that THEY love. This can be as simple as getting home from work and suggesting everyone pile into the car to get ice cream!
Mindset Shifts to Reduce Working Parent Stress
Changing our inner approach is where the rubber meets the road. You can decide to be stressed-out and miserable, or you can decide to take action with the 5 tips above, while cultivating a mindset that brings more peace into your mind and life…
- Focus on the positives. No school lunches to pack. No school forms to fill out or meetings to attend or issues to content with. No dragging kids out of bed. Kids are relaxed and happy.
- Transition savvy. Remember that it’s the transition that’s the hardest part to navigate, then it’s simply a new routine. It’s less stressful to focus on managing a small transition period that to entertain the overriding thought of “Holy moly, summer is so hard and this is going to be a stressful summer.” Focus the power of your beautiful mind on creating a good transition!
- Good enough still has the word “good” in it. There’s no such thing as perfection in parenting (or anything, really). ‘Nough said.
- Parent guilt begone! Most of our summertime working parent guilt is based on stories we make up. Remind yourself that the kids don’t have school and having a good time. Young kids can really pull at our heart-strings as we leave for work in the morning, but you’re less than a mile down the road before they turn their mind to the person or activity at hand.
Are you a working parent? What are some of your favorite ways to create a low-stress summer? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Great ideas come out of discussion and collaboration!
Create Vibrant Health: BodyMindSpirit®
With love and Mind Savvy®,