Transitioning from summer to school
Summertime is coming to an end for our Florida kids. This means soaking up the last bit of vacation and cramming to complete any summer assignments before the first day of school. For a lot of families, we are counting down the days until school adds 6-8 hours of reliable structure to our children’s days and we as parents can stop to take a breath.
I have found many parents drive themselves to the point of exhaustion by trying to plan out every minute of their child’s summer break with exciting activities. For summers to come, I encourage these exuberant parents to pause and take a breath. Studies have shown that unstructured play time allows for children to exercise the right part of their brains that contain the creative, expressive, and imaginative compartments. Today’s society has shortened all of our attention spans with the rapidly growing engagement of technology. It’s quicker to ask Alexa to tell you the weather than to look out the window and see for yourself. So, it comes as no surprise when our children look to us after being left to their own imagination for two minutes and whine they are “so bored”. Their brains, as well as our own adult brains, have been re-wired to expect instant gratification at a much faster pace.
The importance of establishing routines
Families readily experience a transition once August rolls back around. For some, this is a welcomed change, while for others it isn’t. August could mean experiencing a feeling of dread at the thought of pushing a routine back on the kiddos who dig their heels into the sand when expectations are placed upon them.
Research lends support to the organizational features and nature of routines and their positive benefits to children. These positive findings are linked to increased positive family relationships, increased social skills, independence, and even an increase in known vocabulary. If I had to read your mind, I could imagine the thought popping up of ,“I know my kiddo, and they push the boundary every chance they get.”
As hypocritical as these facts appear, routines place boundaries on our kiddo’s “known worlds” and allow them healthy opportunity to practice emerging skills. These boundaries aid in providing predictability which can positively influence a child’s confidence and independence.
There are many ways we, as parents, can find a middle ground for a beneficial routine for our kiddos without driving ourselves crazy. Firstly, I encourage you and your family to sit down as a collective group and discuss expectations of school time routines and how they differ from summer routines. Some kiddos have the beliefs that they have zero routine in place, or that Mom or Dad are going to plan out their lives down to the exact minute for the next foreseeable future. Having realistic conversations with our children about what is expected of them before and after school can aid in having everyone on the same page with one another.
Next, I encourage the parental systems to sit with their kiddos and create a visual routine. Visual routines place a boundary on our children, as well as increase independence and family relationships. When a child whines about being busy or not wanting to follow the routine, parents can just re-direct them to the visual rather than engaging in the back-and -forth battle of “but Mom…” Including our children in the creation of this routine can increase the level of buy-in, as well as allow the children to experience some autonomy.
Balancing work and play
My happy ground for school time routines include both structured, and unstructured time. If the child has school work they must complete after school, come up with a time every day they are expected to focus on it. Mind you, if you schedule 2 hours of homework right after they arrive home from school, you’re apt to get some backlash. I encourage any completion of school work to be broken up into 30 minute segments followed by unstructured play time/ break time. These breaks are beneficial when they are 5-15 minutes in length. Having a list of “break time” activities prepared serves as motivation to work hard as well as decreases time spent on bartering on how break time is spent. Also, allotting time for children to take a “mental break” after school is very encouraged. Imagine if we as adults were asked to sit down and create a report write-up after spending 6-8 hours creating report write-ups. The motivation and drive just isn’t there.
Parents, I encourage maintaining a wake up and bedtime routine now. For example, instead of a 7am wake-up and 8pm bedtime, begin setting those times to an 8am wake up and 9:00pm bedtime. Maintaining routine revolving around sleep cycles can make jumping back into a school routine smoother, as well as create a boundary for parents to continue to honor time to engage in self-care.
Enjoy these last few weeks of summer, and happy school year!