It can officially be called the final countdown. We have eight days left of an academic schedule to follow. Eight days of carpool line and packed lunches. Eight more early wakeups and monitoring of screen time. You can feel the restlessness radiating off the sweaty bodies coming in from outdoor recess.
So while many of us look forward to entering unstructured freedom in eight days, others may be panicking at the near mention of School's Out For The Summer. But I must share an important and well-kept secret from your children...structure and routine are key to a successful summer. I am here to share some advice on how to keep these well oiled kids on track, so that the transitions are less daunting for both you and, honestly, for them too.
- Keep the routine, just shift it slightly. No matter how old your children are, they still thrive on routine. The average ten year old would likely think you have gone mad if you told them to brush their teeth and eat dessert before having dinner. They have come to know, and hesitantly love, the predictability of life. Therefore, there is no reason to change it just because you can. Here are a few sample guidelines to think over.
- Shift sleeping times, but don’t decrease total sleep. If your child goes to bed at 8 on school days, it’s okay to make it 9 in the summer, but make sure they are sleeping a bit later as to not lose their hours in bed. Then, as school time approaches yet again, begin a slow shift back to the original bedtime.
- Follow the same routines of getting ready, having breakfast, brushing teeth, etc. It’s okay if they don’t have any place to be, this keeps them on track for the days that they do need to be at camp or that dentist appointment.
- Use some of their school roles at home. The jobs of cleaning up, setting out snack for peers, or cleaning up their lunch and wiping the tables can all be easily translated to chores at home. Whether or not you choose to reward these tasks, there is no reason not to expect them.
- It’s important to try and eat three meals a day and have specific snack time. Don’t let the day turn into mini-meals all day long. Mealtime is a great built-in transition time.
- Create flexible schedules for the week. Visually display a schedule and allow your children to fill in some activities they want to do each week. If events are scheduled, it gives children something to look forward to. This could be a dinner out, a playdate, or just a movie time. For younger kids, you can write in more details for the week, as this is what they are used to seeing in their classrooms. Let them know they get reading time in the morning or that on Tuesday you will do a grocery shop. Going over the weekly schedule with them, or for younger kids even the daily schedule, keeps the unexpected from throwing them off.
- Don’t overplan. For many parents, when we get anxious, we begin to scramble. For me, my scrambling involves overscheduling. Try to avoid this pitfall. Allow for flexibility and creativity by only planning a few activities at first, then adding in as needed. Understand that your children are in the sun more, being active in a different way, and therefore, that grouchy middle schooler may not be on best behavior at the neighborhood bbq after a full day of soccer camp. Or that first grader may need the nap they haven’t taken one in two years. They will get used to summer within a week or two.
- ENJOY THIS TIME! While kids schedules change, it doesn’t always mean that parents get the same time off. However, summer is a great opportunity to spend just a little extra time together as a family. It doesn’t need to be a big trip to Disneyland. It can simply be using that later bedtime to add in a family game night or a walk around the block. It may mean lunch at home and not at the office once a week. The school year begins again quickly, and your children will remember that time with friends and family more than the ipad. So enjoy watching your child reap the benefits of summer and hopefully you can do the same!