What Are We Doing Today, Mom?
Whew! We made it through the school year! Parents, teachers, and staff worked together to help students have a successful year, and we are very thankful to the Lord. Now we have time for rest and some fun as a family. Nevertheless, as happy as we are for a break, establishing and adjusting to a new routine can challenge both students and parents.
Your students have been accustomed to a full schedule. The slower pace of summer can be a welcome time to unwind, yet for some students, the lack of structure and predictability can be disconcerting. Children can become irritable because of the quick, drastic change in their routines, not knowing what will occur each day. As adults, we have to-do lists and plans for the day in mind, but we may not realize the value of communicating these in advance to our children. They also may have ideas about what to do on a particular day and become upset when our need to accomplish practical tasks does not match their aspirations. This dissonance can lead to a decline in behavior and an increase in conflict with parents and siblings.
Develop a Routine and Set Limits
Also, although the school year is over for students, parents are not necessarily finished with work for the summer. Even if parents take some time off, they still have much to do, such as preparing meals and household chores. These preoccupations can lead us to allow kids to spend too much time on electronics. We all know this is not a good idea, but it is hard not to let it happen by default, something our family experienced for many summers. This year, I decided to be more intentional about developing a routine and setting limits. Previously, I had wondered how a teacher can manage so many students, when I sometimes had trouble managing two during the summer months! After many attempts, I realized that teachers were successful because expectations and routines in the classroom were very clear and repeated often.
Set a Schedule
Everyone in the household can benefit if parents develop a loose schedule and discuss it with your children. Perhaps writing it down and hanging it in a prominent place would be useful. You could have your children in lower grades decorate the calendar. This will also help younger children not to ask every day how long it is until your special vacation! Teenagers benefit from being involved in planning discussions as well. When my teenager was at home, her plans changed continually and were sometimes made about five minutes in advance, since teenagers enjoy spontaneity. It was common to be asked to drive her somewhere at the last minute, when I had somewhere else to be. Helping to create a calendar teaches teens about time management and planning ahead.
Of course, the daily schedule will be determined partly by the parents’ work, summer sports, and camps. Outside of these parameters, determine how much screen time is appropriate for the age of your child. If your child is not involved in a sport this summer, think about a physical activity you and your child could do together, preferably in the cooler part of the day. Your child could also be given a choice of chores to do each day and check them off when they are done. Knowing what the day will hold helps children who struggle with transitions to be less resistant to your directions.
Include Quiet Time
The family schedule could include a quiet time for reading or involving children in activities that stimulate them creatively, intellectually, and spiritually. I found that if I allowed my kids unlimited access to their electronics, they would play them endlessly, but if I set out forgotten toys, Legos, drawing materials, or a building model in a casual location, they would find them. You could set out a large puzzle or simple crafts. One idea is to go to a craft or hardware store and let them select a project you can work on together over the hot summer days. Another idea is to pick some recipes to cook together.
Being involved in mapping out your various summer activities builds a sense of competence and belonging and develops conflict resolution skills in students. It may bring you closer together as a family and help avoid a few arguments. I hope that you and your family have a great summer together. See you in August!
About the Author
Nancy Linton, LPC is the Director of Counseling at Trinity Christian School. She followed the Lord's call during college while at a campus ministry weekend retreat, to use her gifts of encouragement and exhortation to help other people see themselves as God's sees them by understanding and believing His truth in the Bible. She has spent many years counseling students, adults, and families in both school and private settings. In her free time, she enjoys being involved in education advocacy, local politics and water skiing.