Thursday, June 25, 2015

Structure and routine during the summer

“Your daughter officially finished 7th grade,” said my wife.

“Iujuuuu,” said I.

“No iujuuuu, it means my peace is gone.”

“Oh, oh.”

We are already there. It’s summer and there is no school. Parents’ peace, at least for part of the day, is gone. Behavior problems are creeping in. So it is a good time to review some “summer behavior management strategies.”

Remember: boredom is one of the main culprits of behavior problems in children. The lack of predictability that goes hand in hand with summer and the absence of regular routines can cause stress in children.

Parents usually 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 not all is 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:

- Maintain times and sequence of events as structured as possible. For example, stick to sleeping and eating routines.

- 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.

- If necessary, 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

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