Preserving Summer Fun

As I look ahead to summer I find myself slowing down, just a little, and easing into what I hope to be a long relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the school year.  I envision lazy mornings in pajamas, picnic lunches at the beach, and long evenings of snuggling in with my kids to read just one more chapter of The Hobbit before lights out. Email drops away, spontaneous invitations for barbecues pop up and the summer slowly unfolds before us. 

As I paint this picture, there is a nagging image in the back of my mind; one of tired and grumpy kids, one of siblings bickering and one of teen emotions boiling over.  What has happened to my ideal summer?  Ah yes, that all important basic need sleep or should I say a lack of.  Those late night gatherings with friends and that burning desire to finish one more chapter have all added up pushing bedtime later and later.

The trick is how to have that relaxing, easy going summer I dream of while maintain some balance in the house. This is where my parent educator mind kicks into gear, routines. Routines are the cornerstone to keeping things in check. Routines ensure that our children are in bed at an appropriate hour and that they get enough food in their bodies during the day. In short, routines ensure that our children’s basic needs are met.

When emotions are over flowing and you cannot seem to get past 9:00am without multiple melt downs, take a look at your routines. Has bedtime slowly creeped later, are naps being skipped, or have family meals, where you can ensure calories are really being consumed, fallen by the wayside?  This just might be the answer to your peaceful summer. Weave those relaxed and spontaneous moments with some predictability and you may just get a little more of that summer you dream of. 

Why Are Routines So Important?

  • An organized and predictable home environment helps children feel safe and secure.
  • Small children function best when things are predictable and when more or less the same thing happens at the same time each day.
  • A bedtime routine will establish good sleeping patterns.

  • A dinnertime routine establishes the importance of family interaction.

  • Routines built around fun, play or time together strengthens relationships between parents and children.  Reading a story before bed can become a special time you spend with your child.

  • Daily routines help set our body clocks – for example, bedtime routines cue children’s bodies that it is time to sleep.

  • Routines are a way of teaching your child ways to stay healthy such as brushing teeth, exercising or washing hands after using the toilet.

  • When children are always expecting the unexpected they can’t settle and relax.  They may meet each change of activity with defiance or a tantrum because they are not mentally prepared for it.  A routine, on the other hand, allows you to ease them through the stages, telling them what is going to come next so they do not feel rushed or surprised.

  • Routines build consistency into family life. 

  • Hot spots in your day may be resolved by simply tweaking your routine.  Are children over tired?  Move bedtime a little earlier.  Are they cranky just before meals?  Give them something to tide them over.

Parent Educator Katie Becker, writes about parenting from Seattle Washington.  As a parent educator, education professional, and parent coach, Katie has been working with children and their families for over 20 years, from Detroit to Seattle. In addition to her work as Parent Educator for Woodland Park's Summer Co-op Katie runs Thrive, an independent parent coaching practice that works with parents of children 18 months to 12 years of age.