How to Reclaim Downtime for Your Family This Summer

Summer is right around the corner! For parents and kids everywhere, this means one thing – more time at home together. As school wraps up, the family routine is out the door, vacation is finally on the calendar, and fun memories are waiting to be made. 

Not to freak you out, but you only get 18 or so of these; everyone is at home during the hot months of the year to share with your kids. The summers we have left to share with our kids start being a smaller number than the ones that have already passed pretty quickly. 

The fact that our time to influence who each of our kids are growing into is passing quickly can feel like pressure, but I want to challenge us to see it in a different way this summer season. Let’s look at these months as a chance to go slower together rather than cram everything we can in during this break from our school-time-normal. The benefits of taking a less rather than more approach to making the most of our time together are real. 

What our kids need is a chance to be present with us in our homes and families. They need time to be bored. We all are craving opportunities to create and tinker. Every age we are shepherding desires to spend more unhurried time with their close friends and extended family. It’s in these unsophisticated spaces that our minds, hearts, bodies, and souls do the most growing. 

I propose that maybe our kids need more than seven camps to fill up each summer week is time to sleep in, be a little lazy, or maybe learn a new skill with you. What about taking a few weeks off to share some of these long hot days with your kids rather than spend hundreds of dollars to ship them to and fro? Whatever your situation, make an effort to let the sunshine in your home and stop to enjoy the blooming roses together. 

I like to think of this family posture as ‘embracing the pace of grace.’ It’s not always easy to throw off the pressure we all feel to perform and just make time to be but it’s worth the effort it takes to protect our time. These quieter seasons are what help redeem some of the more chaotic and less intentional days that we all encounter. 

Those precious days of being together from dawn till dusk with no plan other than to help keep us grounded. Plan for those days this summer, not just the wild ones where you fit in sports practices, extra math practices, and camp attendance. More than just practicing the things we hope our kids grow in, we also need to give them space to also practice learning how to exist and observe. We are each so much more than what we are able to do in a day. 

Research Tells Us Our Kids Need Downtime 

According to psychologist Lea Waters, downtime isn’t just about being lazy or having kids become totally passive. For the record, downtime does not include screen time. Downtime is a chance for your child or teen to play, create, read, write, draw, walk, explore, or engage.  

Waters explains what happens when your kids lack downtime this way, “It’s a little bit like if you have too many programs running on your computer,” Waters said. “Your computer starts to slow down. And when you shut these programs down, the computer speeds up again. It’s very much like that for the child’s brain.” Overscheduling is never a good thing for parents or children, and it’s important to understand that having too much on your plate can lead to heightened levels of stress and, eventually, total burnout.

Throw that guilt-inducing narrative out that says more is always more! Your kids need the lazy and generally carefree months of summer to make space in their minds and bodies for a new year of learning and growing. The principle of Sabbath or rest applies to our children’s lives just as much as it does to ours. If we feel we have too much going on, our kids are just as likely to feel that same sense of heightened stress when they have too many structured activities in their lives. 

Slowing Down Makes More Room for Family Connectivity 

When helping families find a sense of balance, researchers found that three things were key- playtime, downtime, and family time. These are the things that help our children build important life skills that help them become happy and healthy adults. Professors are finding that kids are getting to college without many of the non-cognitive skills they need because they have only learned how to complete tasks their whole lives rather than how to connect well with others. When we squeeze so much into our days, we really are taking away a vital space that our kids need to grow into well-rounded people. 

Family connection only happens when we spend time together as a family. When we are in constant shuttle mode from one activity to the next, we don’t have space to communicate and collaborate as a family unit. This summer gives your people the gift of time to fight with siblings, make a mess on the counter, and drive you crazy with questions. It can be hard to prioritize family time, but it’s hugely important to the well-being of our children. 

Here is the thing when we are so used to being crazy busy, taking everything you can off of the summer schedule and favoring chances to connect and create is scary. It takes practice to learn how to share the snacks from the pantry with your siblings or how to help clean up after so many meals consumed by the kids during a single day. Parents, it’s your job to embrace the grace required to let go a little bit and fail a little at home with your kids. We don’t have to be perfect at being together to benefit from it. You’ve got this.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages

Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for She has most recently published a devotional, Comfort: A 30 Day Devotional Exploring God’s Heart of Love for Mommas. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.

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