After a long 10 months, many parents (and kids) are ready to walk away from the usual school-year routines. Who wouldn’t want a break from alarm clocks, the morning sprint, evenings filled with homework, school projects and a set bedtime?
While this break from the school routine sounds great, most people are creatures of habit who like to have order in their world – even children. Though they may complain about structure, children are used to routines and rituals. In fact, that is the environment in which they are most likely to thrive.
A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration?, conducted by Barbara H. Friese, Ph.D. and colleagues at Syracuse University, concluded that rituals are powerful organizers of family life and the presence of family routines and rituals in general is beneficial. The review of 32 studies showed that family routines are associated with:
stronger academic achievement,
better health and adjustment in children,
a stronger sense of personal identity for adolescents,
better-regulated behavior in young children,
greater marital satisfaction, and
stronger family relationships.
With summer right around the corner, now is a great time to think about a more relaxed summer schedule that includes routines and rituals to help you keep your sanity.
You may decide to give your children the first week or so to catch up on sleep and celebrate the year's accomplishments. Beyond that, your family will most likely have a better time if everybody understands the summer playbook. If you haven't done this before, here's how you can start.
Set the stage. Before talking with your kids, consider what you are willing to do this summer. Will your kids go to camps? Do you expect them to do chores before they go out to play? Will you take a family vacation? Is it okay to sleep until noon? What about technology usage? Is going to the pool every day an option? What is negotiable and what is not? The whole conversation will be easier if you already know the answers to these questions.
Call a family meeting. Pull everybody together to discuss the summer months and plans. Clearly define your expectations and establish guidelines. Cover things like picking up after themselves, having friends over, raiding the refrigerator, family meals, bedtime, etc. Being on the same page will hopefully decrease the potential for chaos and unnecessary drama.
Most parents want a happy, healthy and relaxed home, especially during the summer months when everyone is there. Routines and rituals are great tools to help create that type of environment. Children and adults do best when they have consistency in their world, even though they may fuss about it.
Children are less anxious and whiny when they know they can count on things being a certain way every day. Establishing a structured environment may be more work for parents initially, but over time it makes life much easier for everyone.