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Navigating the Stresses of Parenting During Summer

Nancy MacGregor MA, ATR-BC, LPC, ACS, Clinical Director

Gone are the days when parents would let their children roam the neighborhood searching for summertime adventures with friends, not coming home until the street lights turned on. Unfortunately, our world today looks vastly different as parents tend to become more stressed and anxious  during the summer months. Today’s world expects parents to work as if they don’t have any children and to have children and expect them to give 110% at work. It is virtually impossible sometimes to be both a good parent and a good worker, which is more prevalent during summer. Parenting since the COVID-19 Pandemic has been even more stressful with shutdown programs, rising costs of living and food, and balancing working from home with a full house. Children are done with school and want to have fun, and parents stress about how they are just going to make it through the next ten weeks of unpredictability.  


In life in general, we are creatures of habit and routine. It is hard-wired into our DNA. The summer presents so many unknowns to people, especially parents. Parents have to worry about childcare, self-inflicted routines, keeping up with the social aspect of their children’s lives and needs, food insecurity, and hoping against hope that their child will not regress in school come September due to the lack of structure and learning. And if you throw in children that are neurodivergent or have special needs, that adds a whole other layer of parental stress.    


For most parents, when asked, the lack of childcare, or unreliable childcare, proves to be the most stressful. In school, you have after-care programs or camps at daycare and childcare centers if your children meet the age requirement. In most schools, after-care is only accessible at school up until 4th or 5th grade. If a child is aged out, it is the parent’s responsibility to find childcare. For special needs parents, it’s even more challenging to find someone reliable who “gets” your child. And let’s not forget how astronomically expensive childcare can be and summer camps in general.  


Another issue that makes parents experience anxiety during the summer is when we hear that dreaded phrase from our cherubic little angels, “I’m bored.” In a world dominated by social media, parents feel they have to give their children “the best summer ever” because they see other families posting. Of course, this is an unhealthy and unrealistic comparison, but we still do it, or at least try to. “Keeping up with the Joneses” can cause parents to feel like they are lacking or not doing enough to make their children happy.   


Skills regression is another area in which parents worry during the summer months. For nine months out of the year, school-aged children (and even children in daycare settings) have a very rigid daytime schedule with classes and homework and learning to interact socially with others. During the summer months, those skills can regress. Most parents fear that their children will not be ready for school when they return in the fall. While you are working from home or in the office, to make sure your children’s socialization needs are met, parents have to come up with new and creative ways for children to be able to see friends or peers, not to mention the time-consuming nature of such get-togethers.    At the end of the day, all parents want is for their children to be healthy, happy, and well-adjusted. There are so many expectations society puts on us regarding child-rearing, not to mention our self-inflicted expectations of how we feel it “should be.” There are a few suggestions to help navigate these stressful times and some gentle reminders as well:  

  1. It’s perfectly ok not to have a detailed itinerary for every day- sometimes, the best adventures in life are unplanned and spur of the moment.  
  2.  If you don’t cook gourmet meals every day and night, your children are fed (even if you only have the energy to make a heat-and-eat meal or peanut butter sandwich). 
  3. Children are more resilient than we sometimes give them credit for; even if some skills are lost, they can be re-learned. 
  4. If you do not have the expendable income to do “all the things” and activities you want, it’s ok to improvise and do what works for your family. Live within your means.  
  5. Don’t doom scroll social media- if it makes you unhappy or anxious, scroll past or simply put down your devices (block and delete is also a great function)  
  6. Boredom can foster imagination if you allow children to be bored- let them explore screen time, play in the backyard, or lay in the grass and be still. Life moves so quickly; you will teach them a valuable lesson that there is beauty in sitting still and that it is perfectly ok not to be busy every minute of every day.  
  7. Take time for yourself- even if it’s only 10 minutes a day- allowing yourself time to reset and breathe will make you a better person and parent. 
  8. Screen time is irrelevant in the summer- if you need to get work done for an hour or two, it is ok if your child is on their tablet or watching their favorite show. They are decompressing as well. At the end of the day, do what feels right to you.  

In summary, there is so much in this uncertain world to be anxious and worry about. Be kind to yourself, spend time just “being” with your children, and breathe. Your children need you. Remember- the tiny humans we are raising do not need perfect parents; they need happy, healthy, loving parents. That is the best gift you can give to them. 

Published on 7/28/2022 | Written by Harmony Bay’s Therapist Nicole Drake, LPC, LCADC, ACS.

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