Sara Dimerman

Sara Dimerman is a psychologist and provides counselling to individuals, couples and families. She is one of North America's most trusted parenting and relationship experts and the author of three books: Am I a Normal Parent?, Character is The Key and How Can I Be Your Lover When I'm Too Busy Being Your Mother?: The Answer to Becoming Partners Again. Learn more or listen to advice from Sara and her colleagues by searching for 'helpmesara' podcasts on iTunes or visiting www.helpmesara.com. Follow Sara on Twitter @helpmesara.
Sara Dimerman
July 21, 2014
Sara Dimerman
Would You Welcome the 1970's Back?
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For some kids, summer break means the beginning of overnight camp and boarding the camp-bound bus—some for the entire summer.

For many other students, summer means day camp, and day camp for most kids means sticking to a schedule—getting up at a specific time (sometimes even earlier than for school), making sure to meet the bus at a specific location and going to bed early enough to be alert and ready to do it all again the following morning.

A disciplined schedule such as the above is exactly what the blogger 4boysmother is recommending against in her blog post on May 29, 2014—where she offered ten ways she plans on giving her kids a ‘1970’s-style summer’. This, she said, includes letting the kids watch plenty of TV, letting them eat whatever they want, having them put on a talent show and making them play outside all day.

I was asked by a national radio station to comment on this blog and to respond to the question, ‘Does a 1970’s summer work in 2014?’ My response, in part, was ‘It might….if you can get your kids away from their electronics, out of their bedrooms and outside.’ Left to their own devices, as the blogger suggests, my guess is that most of our children would rarely see the light of day during the summer months.

One way of ensuring that your children put away their electronics is to establish family rules around screen time. For example, a rule such as ‘no devices or screens between noon and five’ might be hard at first, but will encourage your family members to find other ways to entertain themselves and each other. Or how about asking each child to think of a creative way to enjoy time outdoors on a specific day each week and then trying his or her idea out with siblings or neighbours? Then, help them create a book of their ideas that can be added to each summer.

The other part of my response was in regards to the working mom in 2014 compared to the mom of the 1970’s.  Over forty years ago, most moms were stay-at-home. During the summer months, parents therefore could keep their kids at home and hang out with their kids—and probably other families—outside. Nowadays, finding a program to keep one’s kids busy and safe is not so much choice, but necessity. Although the blogger writes that it’s ok that the kids spend some unsupervised time alone, I think that this comment is, unlike the humorous way in which this blog is written, not very funny. Until one’s children are old enough to be left alone at home (and even then, most parents realize that leaving their teen alone all day is not the best option and that left to their own devices, they will likely sleep until 2 pm and stay up all night as a result), parents need to plan summer schedules in advance.

However, if your children are resisting being programmed all summer and you agree that it’s important to give them some down time to catch up on their sleep, stay up later with friends or just watch TV, but you still have to work outside the house, here are a couple of tips:

  • Create a co-operative of sorts. Find out which of your children’s friend’s moms or dads are stay-at-home, home for the summer, or taking a staycation from work and then create a schedule where each of you takes on the responsibility of a few kids for a week at a time. This way, the kids entertain one another while the parent supervises and your child doesn’t feel that his or her entire summer schedule is as rigid as during the school year.
  • If you need to leave the house early to get to work, and your children are younger and can’t be left alone but prefer not leave the house early with you, consider this:  hire a babysitter or ask a family member to arrive at your house before you leave a couple days each week or on a daily basis over a week or two. This way, instead of having to leave the house to go to a program every morning when you leave, your children can sleep in, awake at a more leisurely pace, and then stay in their pyjamas, if they wish, watching television or hanging out with the caregiver until you get home. 
  • If your child is a little bit older, perhaps he or she would like to help out at your office. If you’re self employed, maybe you can find ways to help your child feel responsible and productive. If you’re working for someone else, ask your employer if there are any odd jobs that need doing. If your child can make a little pocket money, even better. In addition, children love seeing where their parents work.
  • Consider whether there’s any chance of working a four day week during the summer months or shortening your day. This way your children may not have to be in the care of others for too long each day or you can all look forward to one day extra day together.

If you can, use the summer months as an opportunity for your children (and you) to take a break, to ‘chillax’ and to rejuvenate after a long school year of early mornings, homework and scheduled extra-curriculars. Whether you go away on a family vacation where you can re-connect, or stay closer to home to explore your own city as if you were tourists, the warm summer months are a great opportunity to relax your schedules and de-stress.

Image of kids outside from Shutterstock.

Comments | Tagged under parenting, summer, childcare
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What Dad Really Wants This Father's Day
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For my generation, it was common for parents to preach that ‘children should be seen but not heard’. Fathers, on the other hand, were heard but seldom seen by their children. This was an era in which fathers were the bread winners and mothers stayed at home. But we kids knew that if we were too unruly, a punishment would be handed out by father when he got home. Fathers often spent weekends on the golf course and rarely attended parent teacher interviews. They knew that dinner was going to be on the table by 6 o’clock but had no clue what was planned or how to cook it. They often left the house before their children woke in the morning and sometimes didn’t return home until they were in bed at night. As children, we weren’t resentful or angry about this. It was the norm. My primary relationship was with my mom and this continued into adulthood.  When I called home and he answered the phone, I’d say, ‘Hi Dad. How you doing?’ And then shortly after, ‘Can I speak to Mom?’.

Fast forward a half century to the modern day dad. For the past twenty plus years, my husband (like many of his peers) has been super involved in our children’s lives. He wouldn’t have missed their births for the world, has always organized his work schedule around their school plays, parent teacher interviews, birthdays and dance recitals, and he took our girls grocery shopping with him when they were very little (and continued to be the chief food shopper even after they decided it wasn’t cool to be seen with their dad). He’s the one who plans the weekly meals and loves to prepare them whenever he can (he’s a much better cook than me). He’s involved in driving to and from activities, knows all of our daughters’ friends and as much about their likes and dislikes as I do.

Yet despite all of a dad’s dedication, devotion and demonstrations of love, daughters get to an age where they pull away—often emotionally, but certainly physically as they no longer feel comfortable hugging their father or sitting too close. This typically makes sense to a dad who understands that as his daughter’s body changes, so too might their relationship. Still, he misses the time when she snuggled close, wrapped her arms around his neck as he carried her sleeping from the car into the house or wrote ‘I love you. You’re the best dad in the whole world’ on his Father’s Day card.

This Father’s Day, from one daughter to another, I encourage you (and your daughters, if you have) to find a way to show dad (if you can), what he means to you and how much you appreciate things that he has done or said over the years.  Take out a photo album and reminisce about the times you spent together. Allow him to hold your hand in his as he remembers how tiny it used to look when you were very young and thought that he could do no wrong. Maybe even tell him again, as you might have when you were small, ‘I love you. You’re the best dad in the whole world’.

Image of hugging Dad from Shutterstock.

Comments | Tagged under dad, love, father's day
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