If you’re a parent, summer break is likely to stir up two oppositional feelings for you. On one hand, there’s the nostalgia of summer vacation; memories of barbecues, pool parties, summer camps, or even iconic movie scenes from Grease or Stand by Me, leave us feeling excited. We can remember what it feels like to have the final bell of the school year ring.

On the other hand, there’s the reality of summer vacation. There are never enough vacation days to spend as a family, or enough time to get all the projects done we swore we would get to this summer, or enough money to do all the things we want.

The discrepancy between how we recall summer and how we experience summer is totally normal. Yet, year after year, we are surprised when we grow more anxious than relaxed over the course of the break. Here are some helpful tips our team has put together to help any family manage the good and the bad that summer has to offer:

  1. Maintain—or create—some kind of structure.

Families are like any other system: they need structure. Plan ahead, not just with camps and trips, but also for the projects you know you need to get done. Schedule time to do self-care, spend one-on-one time with each of your children, and your partner. You will never be able to be all things to all people, so do the best you can to be exactly what you need.

  1. Give yourself, and your child, some time to adjust.

No one likes change. Especially when that change goes from something structured, such as the school year, to something dynamic. We all need gradual exposure to create and sustain a new normal. Be patient with yourself, and your children, until the new routine is simply the new normal.

  1. Work with your children.

Each child has unique interests, wants, and needs. Find ways to leverage their interests to create a plan. Have someone that loves cars? Take them to a Hastings for a Cruise-In, let them detail your car, or help them start a detailing service in your neighborhood. Have a child that loves art? Take them to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, or an art fair, or see if they want to start selling their jewelry designs on Etsy. Here are some other budget-friendly resources:

  1. Franklin Arts Center, Brainerd
  2. Spam Museum, Austin
  3. Movies and Music in the parks around the Twin Cities
  4. Check out your local library for free arts and culture events
  5. Go to Rush ticketing at your local theater for more affordable rates on the same great shows (ex: Guthrie, Children’s Theater)

Other great resources for you to explore:

  1. Family Fun Twin Cities
  2. CityPages’ Freeloader Friday
  3. ExploreMN
  4. Twin Cities Frugal Mom
  5. CBS Local Guides


  1. Have a backup plan.

Have you ever heard of Murphy’s Law? Well, it seems to apply disproportionally to the summertime. To manage the uncertainty, before summer even starts, have your kids write down a few “rainy day” ideas, and throw them into a jar. Rotate which of your children get to pull a suggestion out of the jar, and go with the idea that gets picked.

  1. Find support!

Summer might be notorious for meltdowns, but this break doesn’t have to lead to a breakdown. Find other parents to coordinate and connect with. Ask family and friends to help with the kids so you can recharge your batteries before burning out. At the very least, find someone to talk to who can help you manage and normalize the summertime struggle.

And don’t wait too long… before you know it, the new school year will be here!

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