"I'm old enough for camp this summer. Can I go? I can save my allowance, and the church is doing a car wash to help earn money."
I had this conversation with my son many years ago, and even though he was offering to help, I clearly remember the panic I felt in realizing that summer would soon be here.
As a struggling single mom, I dreaded the stress of summers. Summertime simply meant school was out, evenings were longer, I'd need extra funds, and I'd be worried about how to keep my kids entertained while I was at work.
But I learned a few things about parenting alone while school is out. These tips might help you, too:
Check with extended family members, even friends and neighbors, to see if they can help
They may not be aware of your struggle to provide quality care for your kids. In appreciation for their help, you and your kids can bake cookies to share. Your children can also express gratitude by doing odd jobs, like watering plants or walking dogs, for friends and family.
Find a good summer camp
Discuss day camp and sleepover options with friends and neighbors, and talk to your children's teachers about reputable summer programs. Research each program until you find one that best meets your kids' needs and fits your budget. Check camp ratings, state licensure and safety standards — and make sure day camps have procedures in place for dealing with restraining orders and unplanned visits from the other parent.
Make the most of activities like vacation Bible school and missions activities
Ask your children's minister to connect you with a stay-at-home mom who could help with transportation.
Make summer special by planning evening and weekend activities you can do with your children
Many cities have free summer concerts in the park or free outdoor movies. Consider the local zoo and see when it has reduced rates. Develop a chore schedule so your kids are done early in the evening, and you'll have more time to do things together in the community.
Don't forget to plan things to do at home
You can do crafts, explore in the backyard and enjoy cooking projects together. One summer I took my kids to the paint store and told them they could pick any bedroom color they wanted. We had a blast!
Linda Ranson Jacobs created and developed DivorceCare for Kids (DC4K) and currently serves as its ambassador.