Q: As much as I love having my kids home for the summer, I also dread it. I feel like I'm constantly trying to juggle work and what the kids need. It's chaos most of the time. How can I actually enjoy having them home?
Juli: As a working mom with three boys, I understand your dilemma. I love having the kids home from school, but I also face the constant challenge of how to channel their tremendous energy in constructive ways. Here are a few tips I've learned over the years:
-- Everyone does better with a schedule. Part of the fun of the summer is not having schedules dictate life, but a free-for-all leads to chaos. Implement a loose schedule to keep the summer manageable. This should include the times that everyone wakes up and goes to bed, time to get chores done and even "quiet time" for everyone to rest.
-- Keep your kids busy doing productive things. Every child, even at 3 years old, should have chores. Be ready to reply to the complaint "I'm bored" with a list of jobs to complete, crafts to do, books to read or other options that your children can tackle on their own. And, by the way, there's nothing wrong with them being bored once in a while.
-- Make sure you have time just to focus on your kids this summer. Compartmentalize your work to certain hours or days of the week, so you can have free time to do fun things like play with squirt guns, go to the zoo and camp in the backyard.
-- Put off things that can wait until the kids go back to school. Having lunch with a friend, volunteering at church and painting your bedroom can all wait. The summer flies by, and it is a critical time to connect with your kids. You will never regret making that your first priority.
Jim: If you haven't already done so, start by sitting down with your son and giving him a chance to discuss the film openly. Don't make light of his fears or dismiss his feelings as silly or immature.
Then, reinforce the idea that the movie was only a story, just like the imaginary tales in his picture books. You might also practice some coping techniques with him, like deep breathing exercises or visualizing a happy place.
It's definitely not a good idea for you to sleep in your son's room or to let him sleep in your bed. That will only reinforce the behavior you're trying to extinguish. Instead, find some other way to make him feel secure, such as turning on a nightlight or allowing him to take a special stuffed animal to bed.
Your experience also raises the larger question of which movies are appropriate for your son. Just because the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rates a movie G or PG doesn't mean it won't contain themes, language and other elements that are inappropriate for preschoolers. And while your friends were likely well-intentioned in recommending this particular film, it's clear that what may have seemed harmless to their kids left your own son terrorized.
To avoid this experience next time, visit Focus on the Family's Plugged In website (www.pluggedin.com). It contains in-depth reviews of the latest theatrical releases as well as past DVD releases, and will help you make wise and discerning decisions about media choices.
(Submit your questions to: ask@FocusOnTheFamily.com)