I was on the phone recently with a client who had some concerns about what to do now that summer’s here—how to make sure her kids are not on Xbox all day long and that they get outside and get some exercise. We talked about having a family meeting.
When kids are older, at least over the age of 6, I suggest a family meeting. It gets everybody onto the same page, and it creates a platform where everyone’s voices can be heard. Their opinions matter. As we were talking about the things that were of concern to her, we covered social media, Xbox and video games, as well as the importance of reading over the summer and the importance of picking up some additional chores now that they’re not in school. I thought those were good topics, and subjects many parents have actually talked to me about. What I suggested was for her to spend some time with her husband, thinking about what her expectations are for the summer.
Think about what you would like, as a parent. What would you like to see? Maybe you’ll agree to have your kids play one hour of video games in the morning and then one in the evening, and the rest of the time is spent outdoors.
Maybe you would like your kids to read for 30 minutes every day over the summer. And maybe you would like them to help with the garbage, do the dishes, and sweep the garage. Whatever it is, come up with your expectations. Think about whether they can do it. Is it a skill they have? If not, do you still want them to do it? If so, you’ll have to spend some time teaching them.
Also, what do you think their rebuttal will be? Prepare for this family meeting by thinking about what they’re going to say if they don’t want to do any of that? Strategizing ahead of time about what you think their expectations will be, is really important. And in preparation, I would also make sure you’re on the same page with your partner, that your expectations are clear.
Getting the Meeting Going
Start with something like, “So, it’s summer, and things are going to be different now because we don’t have to rush and get out of the house and go to school, so I’d love to hear from you. What are some fun things you would like to do this summer?” Start with the fun and easy stuff! In the meeting, you can say, “We’ve got the whole summer! Have you guys given any thought to what you want to do every day? Do we want to go to the pool every morning for three hours? Do we want to take a road trip once a week? Do we want to make sure we spend time with some friends who we don’t go to school with?”
This puts it on their plate. It allows your children to come up with the ideas first. Then you can ask, “What do you think would be some chores that you would be excited to do over the summer?” Basically, you’re setting the boundary in the sense of, “I expect that you’re going to help with chores, but you get to choose the chores. Let’s talk about that.”
If my kid says, “Oh, I want to take out the garbage,” that sounds a lot better than me saying, “Hey you, you’ve got to take out the garbage.” If we put it onto them first, they’re much more likely to be motivated to get the job done.
Ask them, “What chore would you like to do this summer? There’s a bunch of things that need to be done.” Or, “What project…” Maybe there’s a project—you need to rearrange the garage and need some help with that. “How many hours do you think you could give me over the summer to help with that?” Again, allowing your child to voice their wishes and expectations first is really important. Have them decide what they want to do. If they come up with a plan for how they want to spend their days, there’s less of a chance for that to derail, and they end up on the couch playing video games or playing on their smart phones the whole day. Get them involved and have them come up with a plan.
Add Reading to the Discussion
Reading is so important and it can really be fun for a lot of kids. Again, put the ball in their court. “How much time do you think is reasonable for you to spend every day during the summer reading?” without telling them. They may, on their own, say 30 minutes, and you’ll say, “That sounds about right!” Meanwhile, this might be what you were thinking all along. Have them come up with it. And if they come up with an answer that is not reasonable, this is an opportunity for a discussion, for collaboration, for their voices to be heard, and for them to be seen and understood. It is so important for kids to know that their opinion matters. As they’re growing and becoming individuals, this is a really crucial part of the game plan.
Everyone Has a Voice
Overall, it’s key to have a family meeting where we set the expectations of what summer looks like. Summer is very different from the school year, so set that expectation ahead of time and make sure everyone is on the same page, and everyone gets to participate, and everyone’s voices are heard.
Questions to keep in mind during your family meeting:
· What do they want to do with their time?
· What chores they want to do?
· How much summer reading do they think is reasonable?
These conversations can be fun—they don’t need to be stressful. Keep them light and energetic, and reach out to me if you have any questions on how to move forward with that!
If the video gameplay becomes an issue, reach out to me. There are a ton of parental controls for video game usage that we can talk about or I can recommend.
If you have any other ideas of summer tidbits to help with this transition into summer, I’d love to see you post them in our comments or send them my way!