Are you excited to have kids home on winter break or for the summer?
Like, this excited?
It’s easy to get excited about a less busy schedule and more family time.
Think about all the possibilities for connection and fun that vacation days bring!
But when you dig a little deeper…
Is it more like a “scared-cited” feeling?
It’s okay to admit being a little scared about your kids having more free time. It’s okay to look into the future and dread the likelihood of more screen time.
You’re not alone.
Most parents I talk with have mixed feelings.
They feel like celebrating the break: it’s the end of school worries for a bit, the end of those end-of-school late night science projects, the end of rushing around to make the bus…
But right after that celebration is the reality that yes, kids get a break… but in some ways, parenting gets harder.
- Kids are home more
- There’s no routine in place
- They disrupt your “normal” routine
- They have more free time to fill
- Siblings together = more refereeing for parents
- You hear “I’m bored” from kids more often
The default for many kids with more free time is to hop on a screen “for a minute”.
And let’s face it, it’s nice to have the house quiet for a minute. But then you start to get annoyed with how much they’re online and the cycle of screens and annoyance begins!
I have nothing against a little screen time. Heck, I love technology! But it’s important to give our kids a healthy balance of online and offline experiences and I’m sharing all my best recommendations with you.
Recommendations for the first week of vacation
- Realize there’s going to be a period of adjustment. Your children are going to miss their friends and routines. Change is hard, even when it’s anticipated and looked forward to. Give your kids a week to decompress and sleep in.
- Ease into rules. Ask your kids what they think is appropriate for time online and offer some flexibility to your guidelines. Come up with a plan to limit screen time together.
- Have some non-negotiable tech rules, like no screens at the dinner table.
- Have a family meeting and ask your kids what they want to do over the break. Talk about the family visits, trips, camps and any big plans you already have. Let your kids each pick a few outings and personal goals. Then you can add to the list with your family goals. Last year, one of my kid’s goals was to work out every day to stay in shape for baseball. One of my family goals was to visit a new beach every week and explore.
- This is going to sound funny, coming from a company that runs the “Intentional Screens Challege”, but it works. Pick a day the week after school ends and put “Technology Day” on your calendar. Tell your kids they get a day to be on their screens all day long. That’s right! All. Day. Long. What happens at my house is the kids set their alarms for super early, they race downstairs for a quick bite to eat and rush through their chores, then they settle in for a L O N G day of screens. I barely see them unless I look closely at the unmoving lumps on the couch. By the end of the day, they’re full of screens and goodwill toward their parents and they’re ready for a healthier blend of online and offline time.
Recommendations to survive (even thrive!)
Here are all the tools you need to start your break off on the right foot.
The Antidote to “I’m Bored”: 100+ Fun OFFLINE Activities
Make a plan in advance for some offline activities that would be SO FUN that your kids would be inspired to drop their devices. Here’s a starter list of 100+ Fun Offline Activities for Kids this Summer (No and Low-Cost).
- Go over this list with your kids
- Talk to your kids about a healthy balance of online and offline time
- Add local sites and their ideas to the list; cross off the ones they don’t like
- Hang the list on the fridge
- The first time you hear “I’m bored”, point to the list
- Buy or gather a few items (balloons, squirt guns, drawing supplies) and put a few bigger activities on the calendar as family projects
The Antidote to Wake-Up-And-It’s-Automatically-Screen-Time: Daily Expectations
Why not create a written checklist for your kids to EARN screen time?
Yes, your schedule can be less rigorous that the school year. But it still provides structure and expectations, so that every day isn’t the same battle of arguing over chores until bedtime.
Here are some ideas for what you could require before screen time this summer: Summer Expectations
- If your family is working on empathy, add “15 minutes of helping someone”.
- If your family values creativity, add “be creative for 15 minutes” with a list of possibilities your kids come up with.
Customize this list to fit your family values.
Reality check: this is hard to enforce if you don’t have a way to keep technology OFF until your kids have earned it. I recommend and use Circle to turn off the internet. There are lots of other options.
Join the Challenge
Technology has grown around us so quickly that sometimes it feels like we don’t have a choice. We just feel obligated to participate in the chaos. The average adult picks up their phone MORE THAN 80 times a day. EIGHTY. I’m not saying 80 times a day is right or wrong.
I’d like to push pause for a moment and ask for awareness about WHY you’re making that choice.
According to a 2019 study by Common Sense Media, 54% of parents report feeling distracted by their device at least once a day. It’s easy to feel distracted and overwhelmed by the expectations technology brings–you’re “supposed” to be online and available 24/7; you’re “supposed” to answer a text, email or phone call immediately, you’re “supposed” to stay informed and entertained with every story and meme on all the social media platforms.
Perhaps you’re feeling called to question your habits and re-examine those expectations.
I created this Challenge for those who would like to explore living simpler, less distracted and more on purpose.
Take our free Five Day Intentional Screens Challenge to reset your tech habits and live with intention. You’ll discover the difference between using your technology as a tool and allowing your technology to use you.
Past participants call INTENTIONAL SCREENS “eye-opening” and “surprisingly easy to complete.”
Five days, 15 minutes per day. That’s all it takes.
BONUS for Parents: Once you understand how you’re using technology, you can ask your family to participate in the challenge. I’ll help! Here’s an overlooked truth. What we model as parents influences our kids more than what we say. If you are asking your children to have a healthy balance of online and offline time, it’s a great idea to check your balance first.