Summer is a time full of expectations. We imagine certain moments of relaxation, fun, vacation, or slower schedules. I picture it being like one of those drug commercials where the woman is playing catch in the yard or making lemonade with a child. Yes– living life to the fullest, without hindrances like those pesky medical problems!

It used to be that summer was really unique. As a child, you might have memories of slurping watermelon on the porch or going to the baseball field or visiting a beach. Maybe you made a lemonade stand or had picnics at the park. Somehow summer is different nowadays. For starters, you can get watermelon year around. The indoor pools allow us to swim even in the winter. So what is summer supposed to look like? Is it a season of rest? Is it a break from any of your normal routines? For some of us, we march on with the same jobs and the same schedules. Some of us feel completely uprooted and are grasping for the security of the routine and predictable life of the school year. We are not really sure what summer is supposed to look like.

Maybe those beautiful, happy images from the medical commercials are quite off. Sometimes my summer days are more like the end of the drug commercial. It might say, “Warning: summer may cause craziness in your home. Kids may sleep in too long, have total amnesia about all chores, and be addicted to video games. Summer may make you tired instead of giving you energy. You may imagine sweet moments and then just yell and isolate instead. You might feel like the worst parent ever and your goals may not be met. Summer may raise your blood pressure or cause other health problems. Depression, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy may prevail. Fear that your kids are missing out on what all the other kids are doing may dominate your thoughts. Extreme fear that kids are losing brain cells each day may consume you. Summer may sometimes feel like death. Report disturbing symptoms to your doctor.”

I hope some of you are having a great summer– may be better than you thought. Praise God! Tell us why it’s awesome. But for the rest of us, we need to adjust. Here are my tips for figuring out how to go from here and save summer.

  1. Take time to do the 3 Ps: Pause, Process, Plan. Pause and breathe—step back and pray. This allows space to process what is going on and what parts are not ok with you. Break down specific things that aren’t working for you and why. Now you can plan what you want to do or what you need to say to people in your family.
  2. Identify what you want to be able to say about summer after it’s over. This means developing a vision for what your summer could look like and what you truly value. Some people might do other things with their summer, but what would success look like for you and your family? This is what sets the trajectory for your daily choices.
  3. Make a plan to try something different – collaborate with other family members, make the rules about the devices and books, hang poster board for reminders, make consequences for rules not followed, etc. Change happens when you make a plan and communicate it well.
  4. Schedule a time to check-in to see if your plan is working. Carving out time to evaluate how the plan is successful and what needs to be tweaked is critical to getting to your final destination.
  5. Ask God to help you identify what really matters and be content with where you are and what you have. Ask him to help you see the silver lining or see with his eyes or to help you enjoy the special moments.

Let me encourage you with this truth—it only takes a moment to make a positive memory for a lifetime. Life is tricky because you can go through a whole week of blah and then have one good laugh, one point of eye contact with an inside joke, one yummy ice cream cone and a walk along a trail and you feel connected and you feel joy. You know everything’s going to be alright. So rest assured that the great memories will come– those moments that will connect us this summer is really just fragments that we can find in any kind of week and any kind of routine or schedule. Figure out what it takes to let you and your family thrive this summer. No medical side effects involved!

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