mom laying with daughter outdoors

Summer is coming to a close: day camps and other summer programs are ending, but school hasn't quite started yet. During this transition time, every family faces different challenges. Your kids may complain about being bored after a summer of fun, or perhaps you have a child starting high school or going away to college.

It's natural to feel overwhelmed during this busy transition. Fortunately, there are practical skills--like communication and planning--that you can use to help you manage this in-between time. By following a few practical tips, you can help your whole family navigate this unpredictable period and savor what's left of the summer.

Create a Family Calendar
Just because summer camps and community programming have ended doesn't mean your child's schedule has to be scattered. If you make a family calendar that stretches through the remaining days until school begins again, you can help provide your kids with a sense of structure.

After talking with your family and finalizing plans for the remaining weeks of summer, create a big, bright calendar that is clearly visible to your kids. You can make the calendar fun, with different colors and stickers--just like the calendars they receive at summer camp. Then, post it in a prominent place, such as on the refrigerator or on their bedroom wall. You might also consider trying an electronic calendar on a home computer if the kids use it often.

You can include many everyday activities on the calendar--such as when the babysitter arrives--as well as family events. The goal should be to let your kids know the plans for each day, while ensuring that your family spends quality time together as summer draws to a close. Try to include a mix of activities that reflect both family time and individual responsibilities:

  • Family picnics
  • Day trips to the beach
  • A final summer class, such as swimming lessons
  • Summer job schedules
  • Regular chores and responsibilities
  • Family exercise, or training for fall sports
  • Visits with friends and extended family

Seek Input from Your Kids
Kids will enjoy their plans more if they've been involved in the decision-making process. As you create the family calendar, consult with each of your children and let them offer input on how they want to spend the end of their vacation.

To avoid disappointment, ask your kids to keep their suggestions realistic. Your youngest child may want to go to Disneyland, while your oldest might have developed a fascination with skydiving. Remind your children that it's important to consider your work schedule, the family budget, and personal safety.

Seek compromise for ideas that are too expensive or dangerous--for example, if Disneyland and skydiving aren't in the cards, maybe a day trip to a local amusement park could fit the bill.

Connect with Other Families
The end-of-summer void can be frustrating for parents and kids alike. It's important to remember that all families with school-age children are facing similar challenges.

Reach out to other parents and pool your resources to get through to the start of school. Sometimes it works out well for two families to share a babysitter or nanny for the week before school starts. Or, perhaps your children want to join a friend's family for a short camping trip. In return, you can invite your children's friends over for a backyard barbecue. Get creative, and you're sure to find fun ways to end the summer.

HealthAhead Hint: Make Family A Priority
The in-between time before school starts can be stressful, but like everything else, it will pass. Maintaining good communication and planning activities in advance can help ensure a calm transition. Plus, if you make the effort to spend some extra time with your family, you'll find yourself at summer's finish line before you know it--and you may even wish that it lasted longer.