Regardless if you are a working mom or a stay at home mom, summer usually means a breather from the regimented demands of the school year. Gone are the endless school projects, nightly homework, school voicemails and after school activities. Yet summer brings new responsibilities like swim lessons, baseball, all sorts of camps and now the stress of managing your family’s “free time.”
While the flexibility of summer is attractive and welcome, don’t lose the structure in your days. Kids feel more secure and are more successful when they know what is expected of them and when things happen. Whether it is school or camp, you will always find a daily schedule—you should have one too. The key is to balance structured and free time. I like to start and end our day with routines leaving the middle for fun and adventure.
Morning starts with the checklist, but tailored for summer. Many of you have used the inspiring Moms school year morning and afternoon checklists and love them. They work so well because they provide your kids with a simple step-by-step guide to mastering the tasks necessary for morning and afternoon success. A checklist frees you, from being the bad guy. “Mom can I go outside and play?” Your response is simple, “That sounds fun, keep making progress on your checklist– you’ll be done soon, I bet.” By establishing daily expectations, your kids can manage summer days much easier. Our rule is as soon as the checklist is complete; the kids are free agents for summer fun. Your kids will learn that in order to play hard they have to work hard, yet as a routine, work comes first. Sure there are exceptions, but when they become the rule, you’ve lost your structure and the security that goes along with it. Download Summer Morning and Evening Checklists.
Once responsibilities are done, it’s time to have friends over, go swimming or take a field trip to the library, museum or park. Let your kids chose the activities each day, but save Friday as your choice. That’s your day to take them somewhere you enjoy.
Family dinner is a great way to start back with routines at the end of the day. If schedules during the school year make family dinners a challenge, make it happen in the summer. Studies have found the following results associated with family dinners:
· Meals will be healthier and more balanced
· Kids build larger vocabularies
· Kids engage in fewer risky behaviors (smoking, drinking, drugs)
· Teens who rarely eat with their families are three-and-a-half times more likely to have abused prescription drugs or an illegal drug other than marijuana
· Girls who have five or more meals a week with their families are one-third less likely to develop unhealthy eating habits (ranging from skipping meals to full-fledged anorexia or abusing diet pills.)
After dinner there is usually enough time for a last swim, family walk, bike ride or just plain playing in the yard and then you want to go back to your bedtime routine. Kids will go to bed later because of the light, but it is still important to have a bedtime.
Summer is a great break from the pressures of the school year, but brings different challenges. Schedules and routines are a great way to keep some structure while basking in the freedom of fewer obligations. Make it a great summer!