After dealing with a hectic and overbooked calendar during the school year, it is tempting to want to throw the schedule out the window during the summer months and allow the kids to stay up as late as they want or to sleep in past lunchtime on a regular basis. And, especially for parents who are burned out from all the teeth-pulling and follow-up that was necessary to get their children to complete and turn in their homework assignments, the idea of taking a vacation from the daily routine of nagging their kids to complete their household responsibilities sounds inviting.
While it is true that too much structure in a schedule can lead to stress and burnout, it is also true that too little structure and a lack of routine can lead to boredom and trouble. On the other hand, having some amount of structure in the summer is helpful for most families. In addition, research has shown that to help keep them motivated, disciplined and ready to return to school with an attitude for learning, children need a schedule and a routine during the summer months.
A Balanced Schedule
So, how do families find relief from the stressors of the demands of the family schedule and maintain sanity over the summer? The answer: structure and balance. Structure in the form of a regular routine and balance in the types of activities that comprise that routine.
While your family’s schedule may vary from week to week over the summer, it is a good idea to offer your children the security and stability of a routine with regular daily activities. For example, maintaining a consistent bedtime and wakeup time ensures your children have the rest and energy needed for each day’s activities. In addition, good eating habits can be maintained with consistent meal and snack times each day.
To instill a sense of responsibility in your children and to ensure household tasks are completed, include a regular time for chores in your routine, such as in the mornings before you head out for the day’s activities or in the late afternoon before dinner.
While keeping to a routine during the summer helps to maintain a sense of stability, be sure to allow room for some flexibility and spontaneity. Let the kids stay up late to stargaze on a clear night or for popcorn and a movie on occasion. It’s summer, after all!
Once the particulars of your routine are established, the next challenge to tackle is finding the right balance for your family between organized activities and downtime. While organized activities can alleviate boredom and foster learning, too many activities in the schedule can produce over-tired and stressed out children. On the flip side, while free time helps foster creativity and affords the chance to slow down, too much free time can lead to laziness and irritability.
To find the right balance, evaluate the needs of your family, involve your children in the scheduling process, and keep your schedule realistic and varied. And don’t be afraid to adjust your schedule as necessary until you find the right balance.
An Individual Approach
Determining how much structure to put into place during the summer will depend on the individual needs of each of your children. While some are more independent and can handle less structure, others tend to get into trouble left to their own devices. Knowing your childrens’ needs and adjusting the structure and routine accordingly can make all the difference.
Though it might take a little work up front, the time you take in establishing a balanced routine can lead to a sane and relaxing summer for both you and your children!