Summer vacation is here and my tweens and teens are struggling to find something to do all day. We go to the swim club frequently and enjoy cooking together, but without the structure of school and extracurricular activities there are still hours and hours of wide-open time each day for my kids to fill. They gravitate to TV and YouTube to fill their time and complain whenever I ask them to step away to do anything.
My soon-to-be senior in high school understood that having something to fill her time was needed and like most teens she wanted to earn some money, so she’s working part time at my office four days a week. It’s been really good for her. She is answering the phones, verifying insurance and doing other odd jobs around the office and it fills her days.
My middle schooler sons aren’t old enough to work of course, so occupying them is a little trickier. Conall, my sixth grader, is naturally productive. He loves to work and likes to have a project. I’ve hired him to cut the grass each week (1/3 acre) and he is happy to cook or help me clean out the garage. He plays football a couple of evenings per week and swims almost every day. He is, of course, drawn to the boob tube as my mom called it, but he’s got enough other little things he does that I don’t fret about his downtime.
Declan, my eighth grader, would spend all day, every day, in front of a screen of some sort either watching TV or bloopers on YouTube. I have to actively limit his screen time and suffer with the “I’m bored” comments that invariably ensue. Once the screen is off, he meanders around the house for a while before either going outside to play basketball or suggesting that he make chocolate chip cookies. I love a chocolate chip cookie as much as anyone, but a batch a day is overkill. We usually spend the afternoon at the pool where he is outside and he sees his teacher for tutoring for an hour a week but he seems to need more.
I’ve gone old school on this one and instituted old-fashioned chores at my house for the summer. In addition to straightening their rooms and putting their laundry away, my boys have chores. Declan is in charge of dishes: setting the table, loading and unloading the dishwasher and keeping the patio and driveway clean by blowing or sweeping. Conall is in charge of the lawn (that’s a big job) and grilling our dinners on the nights we grill. Mairen is responsible for cleaning the kitchen and family room along with taking out the trash, yard waste, and recycling.
It sounds simple but I have found that having expectations for some work around the house along with some down time has resulted in happier children all around. Being productive agrees with all of us and with the extra mess that being home all day in the summer brings, having some help to keep the place neat makes sense.
Now to teach Declan to do the laundry….