This is a guest post by Teresa Colon.
Summer is right around the corner, conjuring up images of kids running through sprinklers, ice cream smeared over laughing faces, and kids riding bikes through neighborhoods with their friends.
No matter what your visions of summer are, if you are a parent, summer means disruption. Having the kids home all day – regardless of your work status – is a big change from the school year. The routines we’ve carefully put in place over the school year get completely upended for eight weeks, and that presents challenges.
We know that routines are critical to our success in any endeavor. When starting up an exercise regime, experts say that we should create a new routine that integrates the exercise component directly to it. Suffer from insomnia? Good sleep hygiene includes a bedtime routine that signals our body to kick up melatonin production to help us get to sleep more easily.
I don’t know about you, but my family lives by our routines. Without them, chaos rules our home. What I’ve learned over seven years of schooling is that creating summertime routines that mimic (but aren’t necessarily identical to) our school-year ones are critical to maintaining peace in our home – and make the inevitable return to school a smoother transition, too.
With that in mind, here are a few things we do in our home to maintain our routines:
Bedtime is bedtime is bedtime.
This is the one area where we typically don’t allow for summertime flexibility (even on trips). We may let our daughter to stay up later one night a week as we do something special or fun, but overall we stick to her bedtime schedule and routine. We’ve found that this one piece is foundational to summer-time success; a rested child is a better-behaved child (and a more fun one, too!). This goes for my husband and me, too: We have a bedtime, and we live by it.
Set wake-up and ready-for-the-day times.
I have a tween now, so the default response to being woken up at any time is now “Five more minutes, Mom!” If she had her way, she would be sleeping in until at least 10 every morning. That has an impact on the rest of the household, so we have clear times everyone needs to be up and ready for the day. As it’s summer, we usually make this later in the morning than it is in the school year. I could lie and say that it’s a bone I throw to my daughter, but really, I like sleeping in, too!
Integrate the kids into your household routines as much as possible.
For me, Monday is laundry day, and Tuesday is bathroom day, and on Wednesdays, I scrub the kitchen. But with summer, I’d rather spend more of that time with my daughter, and the house gets messier with more of us home more of the time. I used to send her off to read or play with a friend while I cleaned the house, but even that disruption threw me off my routines a bit. Now, I have her help me do all the tasks. The older she gets, the more effective her help is (and the sooner we get to go out to play!), but more importantly, we’re keeping those routines in place. As a plus, she’s gaining essential life skills and (since I’m a stay at home mom), she also gets to answer the question “What do you do all day, anyway?”
Where possible, keep to the school lunch schedule.
This is one where I bend to her routines instead of asking her to bend to mine. Kids get used to snacking at recess and having lunch at certain times, and crankiness ensues when that routine gets modified. I’ve found it’s simply easier to set an alarm on my phone and make sure I throw some food her way at the same time her school does during the year. That means packing nuts or other, easily portable food with me whenever we leave the house.
Know when to fold ‘em – your routines, that is.
When we go on a trip, most of our routines go out the window…and that’s OK, too. What I’ve learned is that keeping our family on our routines 80% of the time is good enough to make sure that we are all getting the rest we need, getting a chance to relax and recharge our batteries, and have fun and enjoy the summer.
What I’ve found by using these principles is that we have more enjoyable summers. By doing what we can to minimize the disruption to my at-home routines, I can function better and enjoy having my kid (and her friends) at our house. It also gives me more space to do fun outings and little road trips; by sticking to our routines as closely as possible, I can handle the days when we ignore our usual routines more easily. The smoother transition back to school in the fall is just another bonus!
Obviously, all families are different and have different needs, so you will probably need to tweak this to fit your circumstances. I think the most important part is simply being intentional in the decisions we make when it comes to our routines and how we want to structure them. I hope these principles help you prepare for a wonderful summer with your family (and an easy transition back into the school year!). If they are helpful, won’t you leave a comment?
Teresa Colon founded Wounded Birds Ministry to compassionately educate, encourage, and support those who live with a mental illness. Driven by her own experiences with bipolar disorder and related traumas, she loves to share the hope, knowledge, and skills she learned along her own journey to health. Teresa is also the writer behind Seeing Ourselves Through God’s Eyes, a Christian devotional designed to help those living with a mental illness pray their way through a storm.