5 Summer Survival Tips for Stepfamilies

School is just getting out, and that means you and your stepchildren will have some extra time. Without homework, projects, and a rigid school schedule, your stepchildren may not know what to do with themselves.  When I was growing up, my siblings and I would spend a week with my grandparents every summer.  My Grandma Classen was a 4th grade teacher, and she planned our time there much like she would have created lesson plans for her classes.  The result: we learned a lot and we weren’t bored. Actually, we knew better than to say we were bored. My grandma’s response, which I now use on my stepdaughter, was “Boring people are bored.”  We learned pretty quickly to get busy and use our imaginations rather than being labeled “boring.”  So, what did these summer plans entail? Read on to find out my Grandma Classen’s special formula.

  1. We got to plan a special meal.

    My brother, sister, and I would each have a night when we were in charge of the meal. We got to look through my grandma’s cookbooks and choose a meal that sounded tasty. Then we would go to the grocery store and get the ingredients for that meal.  My grandma helped us make the meal, but we were in charge of most of it. Our designated meal night was exciting to us because we picked everything out and it was fun to make it with Grandma.  This is a wonderful way to introduce children to cooking.  Dig out some of your cookbooks, and let your stepchildren plan a meal. They’ll remember it even years later!

  2. We were active.

    My grandparents lived in a small town in Nebraska with a population of about 800 people, but there was a public swimming pool in town. My grandpa would take us to the pool every day, and we spent a large chunk of the day swimming.  We also spent time in the backyard on a tire swing.  Taking your stepchildren to the pool every day might not be feasible for you, but try to get them active in other ways. Take them to the park or go for a bike ride.  Much of the time, simple is better with kids.  Given the choice between going to the zoo or swimming, children will often choose swimming.  This is great exercise for them and saves you the stress (and expense) of going to the zoo.

  3. We had chores.

    After dinner, we took turns washing, drying, and putting away the dishes. Everyone had a job to do and they did it. This is especially important in the summer, without the structure of school. Stepchildren need to know what is expected of them and how they can contribute to the family. Chores give children a sense of belonging to the family and a sense of responsibility. They feel good about themselves when they complete chores and receive praise from their parents or loved ones.

  4. We learned life skills.

    My grandma taught us how to sew and how to set the table. She taught us basic table manners that I still use to this day. With homework and extracurricular activities during the school year, sometimes our family life can suffer. During the school year, dinners might consist of grabbing a sandwich before soccer practice or getting some fast food on the way to music lessons.  Take advantage of the extra time during the summer and teach your stepchildren a new life skill. Think about something that will be useful for them to know in the future and start teaching them what they need to know!

  5. We had rituals and routines.

    Every morning, we would get up and eat breakfast together.  My grandparents would read from the Bible and we would pray. Every evening about an hour before bedtime, we would all gather around the kitchen table and have a small bowl of ice cream. Of course, having ice cream was a delight to us, but so was the simple act of gathering around the table to eat it and sharing stories from the day. We looked forward to that time each night. What kind of routines and rituals can you establish with your stepchildren over the summer?

These five simple tips will keep your stepchildren active, engaged, and connected to family over the summer.  Use my Grandma Classen’s formula and make this summer the most memorable summer for your family yet!  Share your own ideas or experiences in the comments.

stepfamily bonding checklist
Here’s a checklist to get started!