The days are long

But the time is short.

            — Unknown

Although you wouldn’t know it from my picture, summer officially starts in four days (and maybe my picture will change at exactly the same time!).

A few of you may be committed to year-round school with two-week breaks every quarter, but most of us are entering the ten-week summer vacation cycle.  In stepfamilies this means a lot more face time with your stepchildren. 

Some of you may see the opportunity this presents to build relationships with your stepkids.  However, many of us have a hard time getting past the fact that there are more people in the house, more messes to clean up, and in general more demand on the parents.  Stepparents may have to field questions and situations that the parent normally handles.  

It’s true that some days don’t go as well as you’d like them to and everything feels like a drag.  But in the big picture, that was only one day in the life of your stepfamily. Don’t blink because before you know it, none of these children will be left at home. 

I’ve learned that despite the harder days, each new day presents a fresh opportunity to do things a little differently to make things better.  If you model this behavior, your stepchildren and children can pick up on it. 

How can you make this summer mostly relaxing and enjoyable?  Try these ideas. 

  • Take time to ponder over what each child in your family likes and needs after the school year…who will bounce off the walls if they don’t stay scheduled and busy? Who prefers the downtime of free play or free choice of things to do? Can you help match each child’s needs to a fitting situation? 
  • Hold a family meeting (barbeque and/or ice-cream-sundae bar?) to set summer expectations and boundaries. There will undoubtedly be more dishes to do, more family-room cleanup, more sibling arguments, more phone calls, more television on…how will you handle this as a stepfamily? What would all family members like to do for fun? This is also a time to work on some tough questions and answers.
  • Whose discipline prevails – parent’s, stepparent’s, or both?  What activities or forms of expression are simply not allowed? How will you administer consequences?   
  • Balance doing things with your kids and stepkids alongside continuing your own groove. Summertime doesn’t mean giving all your free time to others.  
  • Got teens? Help them get into at least one volunteer opportunity or paid position. For younger teens use your network of contacts in the community to find unadvertised possibilities such as dog walkers, house sitters, weeders, mowers…even readers to young children or to the elderly.  
  • If you have the funds available, join a community pool. Another option is to schedule a weekly excursion to the public pool…start some traditions with water toys and crazy, fun snacks. Or there’s always fun in setting up a slip and slide toy in your yard or nearby common area. Water can be a great common denominator for a wide range of ages. 
  • Explore classes offered by your community’s Recreation Department. Most offer an overwhelming number of options from art classes to sports camps to writing clinics, at a reasonable cost. 
  • Schedule family reading time. Pick one book appropriate for all family members and take turns reading it out loud to each other. Have post-reading discussion but keep it light – just don’t make it feel like school and you’ll keep your audience engaged.

 Do you have summertime stepfamily ideas?  I’m interested!  Log a comment below or send them to, and have a very enjoyable summer.

Mama J is a writer, parent, and stepparent in NOW IT’S FINALLY SUNNY Northern Colorado.  To learn more about her book Stepparenting the Grieving Child, visit her website at


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