Summertime is often a time for fun, but for some families summer months can be a cause for stress and anxiety. Changes in routine can be disruptive for children and lead to increased behavior problems. Although schedules may be more relaxed over the summer, most children benefit from a summer routine as a means of knowing what to expect on a daily basis, which can reduce stress and anxiety. Consistent routine over the summer will also ease the transition back to school routine in the Fall.
Here are FIVE tips for staying on track with routine during the summer:
1) Morning meeting: Start your day with a brief family meeting to discuss plans and responsibilities for the day. If you find it difficult to keep your child’s attention in the morning, consider a bedtime meeting to discuss plans for the next day.
2) Consistent wake and bedtime: Although there will be occasional special circumstances, attempt to maintain your child’s waketime and bedtime at the same time each day. A consistent sleep/wake routine will keep your child’s body rhythm on track, make bedtime easier, and reduce the likelihood of your child being overtired (along with related behavior changes).
3) Regular meals and snacks: Kids are busy over the summer which can mean they pay less attention to when to eat. Regular meals and snacks remain essential to maintain blood sugar levels and avoid the moody moments when your child is low on fuel. Plan snacks and meals ahead of time; engage your child in this planning, particularly if they will be independent with mealtime.
4) “Plan” some down time: Avoid overscheduling. Kids enjoy summer activities but often look forward to relaxation and “me time” over summer break. Help your child reduce stress by discussing ways to include down time in their routine, including discussion of what relaxation means to them.
5) Assign responsibilities: Provide age-appropriate responsibilities for your child. Helping a child feel that they actively contribute to the family unit can help improve self-esteem. For children who are resistant, discuss responsibilities as “family goals” and plan something to look forward to later in the day when everyone’s responsibilities are complete.
Help your child stay on track with routine and help everyone enjoy an easier and fun summer!
Dr. Lindsay Clendaniel
Lindsay Clendaniel, PhD is a pediatric psychologist and Director at Thinking Tree Psychology. She specializes in the treatment of children, adolescents and young adults with anxiety and health-related adjustment issues, with particular expertise in pain management and treatment of chronic headache and functional gastrointestinal illness. Dr. Clendaniel has presented research at national conferences related to the topic of pain management and has also authored several articles and book chapters related to the management of functional gastrointestinal illness.