Family Therapy Bethesda MD
Today is May 17th – you are officially one month away from the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. Summer – that joyous time where life slows down and you are no longer rushing out the door yelling at your child to tie their shoes, packing lunches, searching for library books, or running off to scouting meetings or sports practice. That time when after 24 hours of joyous freedom, your child exclaims your two favorite words like nails across the chalkboard: “I’m Bored.” Those words can feel like a punch in the gut as you look around the house at the piles of toys and games, the chores that need to be done, and the vacations planned. However, with preparation and setting of expectations, maybe this year you can set yourself off on the right foot for a great summer for parents and kids alike.
While a month may seem like a long time, now is the time to preempt the boredom and set a clear structure and expectations for your summer days. As most of you know, kids (and adults) need a little structure or, before you know it, it will be Labor Day weekend and your 8-year-old is on the same sleep schedule as a rock star on a stadium tour. I am advocating for, in fact, an actual daily schedule for the summer. The schedule should have wake up time frames, getting dressed and groomed, chores, free time, active time and rest time, bed time and anything else you have planned for the day. Let your kids know now what summer is going to be like so you and they can be prepared!
I know some of you are thinking, “But its summer! Shouldn’t they just get to be kids??” Absolutely – kids who can sleep a little later, have a lot more free time, but still have to live up to expectations and responsibility. Putting a schedule on the wall of what the day holds will allow kids to know what needs to get done as well as what to expect from the day. For example, if they know that they have two hours of free time, they are more likely to maximize that time unlike if they feel there are endless hours in the day to fill. A schedule should include chores as well. Summertime is the perfect time for them to get in the habit of helping around the house because they have the time. Put an hour of chores in – and be specific about what chore they should do – and have a reward for them for completing (ice cream!).
And, have fun with it! Sit down with the family at the beginning of each week and plan out the week – when kids have input into the plan, they are more likely to buy into it and to be enthusiastic about carrying out the plan. Add in creative ideas to each day to mix it up and make the day interesting – a puppet show, using the sprinkler, build a fort, a trip to a playground – have your kids use those imaginations and learn to entertain themselves. A quick internet search will help you come up with dozens of ideas for the kids that don’t take money or a lot of planning. Work on the front end will result in less work in your day to day.
Lastly – screen time. We all have had that battle with our kids about the amount of screen time they are allowed. Over the summer, with endless amounts of free time, many kids become little screen holding zombies. Screen time can be built into your weekly calendar too — all you have to do is point at the calendar and use that as the reference for when the time to stare at Dude Perfect videos is over and they can actually go outside and try some basketball trick shots of their own!
Everyone deserves to enjoy summer and all it has to offer. Plan ahead, like you would for the school year or your vacation, so that your summer break is the best it can be for everyone!
Kara Smith, MS, LCMFT provides family, couple, and individual therapy in our downtown Bethesda office. Call or email today to set up a first appointment or complimentary telephone consultation with Kara!