Parents may overlook this factor. After all, what child doesn’t love being out of school? Adults assume that most children would be happier during the stress-free days of summer. But this isn’t always so. Many children do much better with routines that are more synonymous with the school year. When a child can anticipate what is coming it increases his sense of control and independence and therefore encourages cooperation. Having a familiar routine builds confidence and decreases anxiety.
But all is not lost just because it is summer. If your child is not attending a summer camp or doesn’t have a daily activity to depend on, it is still possible to build structure and routines into the day. Some useful tips are:
- Try to maintain times and sequence of events as structured as possible. For example, if a child is used to eating breakfast as soon as he wakes up, stick to this routine.
- Since children feel more secure when they know what to expect, it is best to plan the day ahead of time and discuss it your child the day before.
- Build some choices into the day to help your child feel some control and nurture self-esteem.
- Use visual schedules (pictures, drawings, etc.) to cue a child about what is happening.
- Present scheduled of activities in a positive manner and try not to be overly rigid. Some flexibility is always necessary. If you remain flexible and adjust your expectations, it will be easier to maintain a stress-free environment for your children.
- Plan physical outlets daily. Kids need to burn energy. Sitting in front of the computer or playing video games for hours long is a recipe for disaster. Planning play-dates at the park or at the beach could be good ideas. Going hiking and bike riding is always fun.
- Watch what they eat. If your child is not overweight some “junk-food” is OK as long as you balance it with healthy food. Food is the main source of energy. Too much sugar and processed food have a direct effect on mood changes. When in doubt, consult with you pediatrician or a nutritionist.
- Plan some quality one-on-one time with your kids where they are the “boss” and you play with them.
And finally, always include some free time in the day – children need some down time and it can be exhausting to be overly scheduled.
And have a happy summer!
Daniel Adatto, BCBA