Summer is fast approaching and that means summer break!
This is a great time to take it easy and enjoy your children without the pressures that sometimes accompany the school year. However, summer break can also be a difficult time for some children and families. Children go from the highly structured setting of school in which much of their day and many of their activities are planned out for them, to a setting that has potentially unlimited amounts of freedom. Some children and families can handle this transition with few difficulties while others may struggle with all the changes that summer can bring.
If you find that your family has a difficult time getting in the swing of things for summer, here are a few ideas that might help ease the pains of that transition.
- Establish a routine that works for your family. Research shows that children do well when they know what to expect in their day. Establishing a routine for your family is a good way to help your child develop a sense of mastery over their day. Depending upon the needs of your family, this routine can be very detailed and structured or it can be a loose routine. If your child thrives on routine and structure, then it may be a good idea to stick as closely as possible to the schedule that your child has during the school year. This may mean they wake at the same time, eat at the same time, play at the same time, go to bed at the same time, etc. If your child can handle a little more flexibility in their day, then the routine may be doing some things (i.e. meals) at the same time each day or doing tasks in the same order during the day. While it may be tempting let your children stay up late and enjoy the long summer days, if done too often, this can lead to some cranky kids. Try to make sure your child gets enough sleep to be well rested. Sleep is important for all of the growing and developing your child is doing.
- Incorporate plenty of outside and unstructured play into your day. Scheduling free play and outside play into your child’s day is an important part of their overall development. While engaging in free play and outside play, children are working on their motor development, problem solving skills, social skills and many other important skills. This type of play also allows them to use their imagination and explore their world. Outside play also is a great way to help kids get that all important sleep.
- Plan some activities with your children. Work with your children to come up with a list of some fun things you would like to do as a family. This will give them something to look forward to and helps break up the monotony of too many days spent at home. Your local community is often a good resource for free activities for the family.
- Play with your child. Play is the language of children. Play is how they share their day with us, what is important to them and how they work through their problems. Spend some time each day connecting with your child through play. This time of play helps to establish a strong bond with your child.
Hopefully these ideas will help your family ease into summer and allow you to enjoy this time with your children.
Cassie Beltz is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with Lutheran Family Service. She practices out of Oskaloosa. If you would like to schedule an appointment with her, call 515-251-4900.