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What kind of summer is this?

Summer Sprinkler Fun!

That's the uneasy question swirling in the heads of many moms and dads right now, not to mention their kids.

The crack of a bat, the cold splash of a neighborhood pool, and the crackling flames of a campfire – staples of summers past – may be silent this year. Families who filled their days with little league games, outings to the community pool or extended stays at sleepaway camps are finding that such traditions are cancelled, closed or severely restricted because of the ongoing virus outbreak.

The cold reality this summer is that things are going to look and feel different for most.

Secretly, some of you may be glad. If watching ballgames bores you to tears, standing poolside leaves you drained, and hefty camp fees gives you heartburn, then a change in your traditional summer schedule may seem like a blessing. But don't celebrate too much. Your kids may be heartbroken at the prospect of losing out on their favorite summer rituals. And their heartbreak will likely be your headache.  

Whatever feelings your family is experiencing, understand that the past few months have been stressful for everyone for different reasons. To relieve that stress and get past your disappointments, choose joy, be honest and remain flexible.

  • Choose joy. As a family, practice mindfulness techniques (meditation, deep breathing, journaling, etc.) to build resiliency and spark joy. Establish workable routines that will help maintain calmness, stability and connectedness.
  • Be honest. Allow your kids to share their fears, fatigue and faith about dealing with ongoing disappointments. Give them, and yourself, permission to appropriately vent whatever emotions exist. As a parent, you don't need to have all the answers, but you need to be willing to hear their concerns.
  • Remain flexible. Make decisions as a family, especially decisions about change. Talk about what needs to take place to restructure family activities and then encourage everyone to work together to put into place the change that's needed (rescheduling travel, reinvesting funds, finding meaningful alternatives, etc.)

No one can change the circumstances we all find ourselves in now, but each of us can control our response. Choose to see the joy in life, and don't wallow in the disappointment of what can't be done this summer. Instead, get busy discovering what can be done… then do it!

Here are a few suggestions to help you reinvent your summer fun…  

  • Turn the backyard into an outdoor gym.
    Build an obstacle course using jump ropes, hula hoops, buckets, balloons, inflatable pools and boxes. Your family can have its own ninja warrior competition while getting some awesome exercise.
  • Star gaze.
    On a clear evening, grab blankets and a telescope and then take in the beauty of the night sky. Do it in the backyard or at your favorite outdoor spot.   
  • Do a bucket list challenge.
    Have everyone create a four-item bucket list and then see how many can be checked-off by summer's end.
  • Open a drive-in on the driveway.
    Find a projector and show a movie on the garage door. If you want, sit in the car and watch while munching on your favorite theater snacks.
  • Serve up some festival faves.
    Your cherished festival or fair may be cancelled, but that doesn't mean you can't cook up its tasty treats. Find out just how many things you can eat on a stick! 
  • Go on a weeklong or weekend staycation.
    Capture that vacation feeling without leaving town. Sleep in a different room of your house, practice and learn a new skill, read the latest release from your favorite author, start a home-improvement project the whole family can get behind (convert that spare space into a theater/game room!), or take long walks around town and see what's new!  
  • Have summer camp at home.
    Pitch a tent or build a fort and create a camping experience at home. Make smores and grill hot dogs over a fire pit. Play yard games. Have a wild theme or recreate your favorite camping experience, then tell spooky ghost stories when the moon comes out. 

This summer may not be exactly what you or your kids hoped it would be, but different can sometimes be better. Do the best you can to keep attention and time focused on the things that bring your family joy. If you can do that, summer should be a blast!