School is finally out for summer and it’s time for some fun in the sun! The end of the school year brings a welcome relief and well needed break from waking up at the crack of dawn, doing homework and early bedtimes – not only for the kids but for the parents as well. I mean, let’s face it, by the time summer vacation begins I am ready to break out a bottle of wine and celebrate, I can only imagine how great my boys feel when the last day of school is finally here.
So, I completely understand the temptation to let the whole school year routine take a backseat to having a super fun summer. You may consider forgetting bedtimes, chores, curfews and the regular rules of the household and let the kids just be kids and enjoy their summer. You may even think this is a pretty good idea; after all, the routine will always be there when you’re ready to go back to it, right? Now, the routine may still be there, but your sanity as well as the sanity of your children may not be there at that point. That’s why it’s so important to keep up a routine during the summer months.
Like I said earlier, we all need a break. Parents and children deserve to have a break and enjoy their time while they take that break, so I am not saying that you have to stick to the same routine that you follow during the school year. It’s okay to to keep the rules in place and modify them a bit. This allows you to keep the structure that you work so hard on while school is in session while still cutting you all some slack and taking time to experience the joy of a carefree summer. With some of these simple changes to your normal routine you can make it happen easier than you think.
Make bedtimes and wake up times an hour later. Have a camp out in the backyard or a movie night where you all stay up a little later and watch a favorite movie together. In the morning do the same, let them sleep in a little later than usual and then do something that you will enjoy together. It can be some time at the park, the library or something as simple as breakfast at your favorite place. The trick is to find what works for your family. Let them stay up a little later and wake up a little later but remember your limits. One hour may be just fine, but when 1 becomes 3 it can mess up the routine completely.
If your older kids go out with friends during summer break, you may want to give them a little bit more freedom. It gets dark a little later so you may want to extend their curfew for an hour or let them go someplace new with their friends. This gives them a chance to experience things they may not see during the school year and gives them a bit more independence. Once again, you want to find the balance that works for you where everyone is happy and feels secure. You can find lots of ways to modify the rules so that there is still a routine but it’s not as rigid as during the school year. Giving them a small break from chores with a surprise outing instead is a cool way to break the rules a little. The key is moderation; small changes that make things more enjoyable and take advantage of things like longer days and warmer weather; not big things that will disrupt the routine that you need.
Now here’s the thing, your kids may fight you on this. They may get mad at you for not letting them stay up all night playing video games or sleep until 12pm because DUH, SUMMER! Your friends or family members may try to guilt you into giving in – “but it’s their summer vacation, let them be kids and have a good time!”. But none of this will work because you know the secret. The secret to as much peace and sanity as anyone with children can possibly have. That secret is the routine. Your kids don’t even know it, but they need a routine. Heck, deep down inside they actually crave a routine. Routines make kids (and adults for that matter) feel safe and secure. Having a routine gives children stability and helps them build trust. They know what to expect and when to expect it and that makes them feel good even if they don’t know it or understand it. A routine keeps things in order for parents but for kids it’s an extremely important and necessary part of life.
Studies show that kids who don’t have a routine can develop behavioral problems, low self esteem and other issues that can stay with them for the rest of their lives. Kids that follow a routine learn self discipline, responsibility and other life skills that they need to survive in the real world. They also make an easier transition when the new school year starts because of having a routine. These children feel loved and cared for. They know that there is an adult making sure that they are okay and that things are going how they are supposed to be. They also have less anxiety than children without a regular routine.
While putting your regular routine on the back burner for the summer may seem like no big deal it really is a huge deal. It’s about so much more than being the fun parent and letting your kids have an awesome summer. You can still be fun and their summer will be even more awesome when you stick to a routine even though there’s no school. You are also doing what’s best for their health and well being. You will be giving your kids what they need not just what they want and that’s what parenting is all about. So stick to that routine this summer and know that you are doing this whole parenting thing right. Good job!