Summer usually means a respite from the regimented demands of the school year. No more nightly homework, endless projects, after-school activities, or lunches to pack. However, summer brings its own new responsibilities: cams, sports, swim lessons, and a lot of “free time” – often unsupervised – for our kids.
It is important not to lose completely the structure of the days, however. Kids feel more secure and are more successful when they know what is expected of them and when things are happening – all the time, not just in summer. You should have a schedule that everyone understands and keeps. Bedtime may be a little later; perhaps you’ll let them sleep in a little; but there still should be a schedule.
I recommend you start and end the day with structure. Try starting your morning with some type of expectation: make your bed, eat breakfast, clean up your dishes, tidy your bathroom. You can add other chores that may not happen daily, but do need to be done once a week: clean the litter box, take out the trash, bring in the trash cans. I recommend that you put these chores/expectations on some type of checklist that can be posted. You can laminate the list and use a dry erase marker to signal completion; or you can make multiple copies. Once the items on the list have been completed, the kids can launch their day – have friends over, go swimming, go to the library or the museum or the park. You might let your kids take turns choosing the activities 4 days a week, but keep at least one day open for you.
A family dinner is a great way to start back with the routines at the end of the day. Research shows that some benefits of the family dinner include:
· Healthier and more balanced meals
· Larger vocabulary
· Fewer risky behaviors such as smoking and drinking
· Less chance of unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders
There is usually time after dinner for a family walk or bike ride, a family read-along or book group, or games. Then move into your nighttime checklist: jammies, brushing teeth, bath or shower, and bed. Please do not read this as over-scheduling your children to the point that they have no “down time” of their own. It is perhaps 2 hours out of 24 that your kids practice keeping a schedule and taking responsibility. Their transition in September will be easier and they will be better people in the long haul.