Five Parenting Strategies for a Successful Summer: From an American in France

This week, I’m excited to welcome guest blogger Veronica Bishop of Bishop Content Studio! Veronica is an American living in France (and a dear friend), and she is here to share her suggestions for parenting your way through a successful summer with a little French perspective!

About three years ago, my family moved from Portland, Oregon to Nantes, France. We wanted a change of scene after the monotony of lockdown, and my in-laws had been patiently waiting for their turn to have a daily dose of grandkid time.

As a chronic worrier, I fretted about a lot of things before we moved. What if the culture shock is too—shocking? What if we don’t make friends? What if my son struggles with the French school system?

Many of my fears were unfounded, but the latter one did turn out to be true.

Today is the last day of 3rd grade for my 8-year-old son. He’s struggled and overcome, then struggled again. There have been bullies, tears and homework pages torn from overzealous erasing. But also enormous progress, new friends and expanded interests. I’m so proud of him.

As I shouted “Have a great day honey!!” to the back of his head this morning, I was filled with joy. He did it!

And most importantly, now we can have a break from the 6:30 am “get ready for school” alarm.

Every year, I’m beyond thrilled for summer break (and even more thrilled for back-to-school time). While summer is full of fun, it does carry plenty of challenges. Lack of structure, working parents doing double duty trying to juggle work and kids, and ad hok plans that feel adventurous but also completely exhausting.

As an American living in France, I have some suggestions that pull together my experience living in both countries, all based on what works best for our family.

But First: France vs. USA

In France, there is one huge difference when it comes to summertime: everyone – I mean EVERYONE – takes the entire month of August off. It’s called les grandes vacances.

Not OOO. ROOF. Really out of the office. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. Poof, gone. The cities are like ghost towns, while whole seaside villages fill with people.

As the owner of a small business based in the US, this was a hard pill for me to swallow. Obviously I can’t do that, I told myself the first year. I can’t take an ENTIRE month off. It would be irresponsible. What will my clients think?

But as the years have rolled by, I’ve adjusted my mindset around work. Taking time off to recharge is culturally accepted and even required here in France. This has been a balm for my overworked American brain. And as it turns out, my clients are just fine with it.

These days, I still work through most of July and some of August, but I arrange my schedule to accommodate vacation and time with family. My husband is a teacher, so he is blessedly available during the summer.

Of course, my situation likely differs from yours, but here are some of my best tips based on my experience living in BOTH countries.

“We love to slow down, and France requires us to do so. In France, we find what we are missing.” ~ Marcia DeSanctis

1. Create a Summertime Work/Fun Cadence

One of the hardest things about summer is a lack of structure. Everything changes, and the schedule that used to work during the school year is no longer going to cut it.

I like to spend the first few days adjusting, then sit down and write an intentional daily schedule for the summer, including wake-up and bedtimes for everyone, adults and kids. This helps to manage kids’ expectations and therefore reduces whining and meltdowns. We stick to the schedule and try not to let it slide. This is the most important thing you can do to make summertime go more smoothly.

2. Organize Your Time

During the school year, we use a shared weekly whiteboard calendar that includes work meetings, deadlines, and kids’ activities. This visual aid helps everyone stay informed about the day’s plan.

In summer, it’s tempting to abandon this habit, but I have found that keeping it going makes a huge difference! Writing down the weekly schedule helps to create structure and manage expectations for everyone.

3. Create Visual Boundaries

It’s pretty much impossible to structure your time and energy—both abstract concepts—without first creating physical boundaries. A dedicated workspace at home is so important, even if you still go into the office during the summer. It helps to minimize distractions and creates a clear separation between work and family time. For me, this space is completely off-limits as a play zone and everyone understands that when the door is closed, mom is not available!

Obviously this is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but if you can swing it, creating a space where you will not be disturbed and then really sticking to it is key.

4. When You are Present, be Fully Present

Table TopicsOn the flip side, when I am not working, I try to be fully available! There are lots of ways to do this, but my favorite is during meal times.

In France, meals are sacred. It’s a chance to come together and be truly in the moment. We use this time to bond, discuss the day, and plan for the next day. Our son struggles to sit still for too long, so we like to play Table Topics during meals, which is essentially a deck of cards with a question to discuss on each card. He loves asking and answering the questions, and it usually allows us to spend a really lovely long stretch of time together with minimal disruption or distraction.

Evening walks or bike rides are also a great way to take advantage of the long summer evenings and spend time together if I’ve been working all day. It’s a great way to relax and ensure everyone gets a good night’s sleep as well!

5. Give Kids Options for Things to Do

The frequent refrain of “moooo-ooom, I’m booooored!” can be heard from many a household, worldwide. I personally believe that boredom is healthy. Our world today is SO chaotic, and not filling our brains with constant dopamine is perfectly ok. But it does help to have a solid list of non-screen-related activities available for kiddos. I like to write them down on individual scraps of paper, put them in a jar and let kids pull one out at random. It’s a fun way to present things to do, and kids love it. Here is a great list of non-boring summer activities to get you started.

Of course, my summer will not be entirely Instagram-worthy. There will be messes, spills and arguments. But there will also be many, MANY joyful moments. I want to be there to enjoy them, and using these methods allows me to attend to both work and play.

Happy Summer!

Veronica Bishop

Bishop Content Studio

After years of working as a Professional Organizer and writing about her experiences, Veronica realized her passion of writing for small businesses. She is the founder of Bishop Content Studio, a one-stop shop marketing studio specializing in beautiful, clutter-free website design, copyediting, copywriting and social media content creation for small service-based businesses.

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