Hello summer. Hello carefree days. Hello late nights… Goodbye schedule… On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to say “see ya later” to that familiar routine?
According to doctors, a morning routine, even during the summer, is proven to keep kids and adults on track for success and happiness; mentally, physically and emotionally during the long summer days. Dr. Randy Cale, licensed psychologist and parenting expert, says with the absence of structure, most children also decline in their academics. He says, “research suggests a predictable loss in mathematics of about two and a half months, and often two months of progress in reading,” in his article, Simple summer habits will save your sanity.
To save your kids, your sanity and this unnecessary academic loss this summer, try these simple expert steps to keep you and your kids on track for enjoying each day of summer to its fullest, without the burnout.
“The quiet early morning hours are a key time for focusing on a set of routines that start your day off right, before the rest of the world wakes up and has the potential to throw you off course,” writes Dr. Mark McLaughlin, neurosurgeon and Business Insider contributor.
He recommends setting aside a short amount of time, even 5-10 minutes, to practice a simple form of meditation.
What that means for most adults is not waking up and immediately grabbing your smartphone or laptop beside your bed. And to take a few extra minutes for yourself before the rest of the house is awake. For kids, this could mean a quiet reflective exercise, a personal prayer, listening to a meditative story or teaching your child a simple mantra they can repeat.
This is a great time to use tools like WebSafety, with its Block Screen Time feature. If your kids know it is “morning routine” time, just like you, they won’t be running to their tablets and phones to scroll through social media or watch a YouTube video first thing in the morning.
Just these few moments of meditation or mindfulness will “help reduce stress levels and avoid burnout, improve your mental health and well-being, boost your creativity levels” and so much more.
Take time to sit with your children, also on your own, to plan out your day. Writing down a list of activities, to-do items or a schedule can help everyone stay on track and feel a sense of purpose.
The items can be simple tasks around the home or figuring out the complicated carpool schedule to get everyone to camp. Sitting around the breakfast table or first thing when the family wakes up and everyone is in Mom and Dad’s bed is a great time to discuss a plan as a family.
“Mapping out your day before it begins each morning doesn’t mean it won’t go off course, but it will help keep you focused on your goals and give you a better shot of actually achieving them,” says Dr. McLaughlin.
Yes, that’s right, summer goals are a good idea!
Work then Play
Give your kids “work” every day that they need to complete before they can play. Dr. Cale suggests an academic activity for 45-60 minutes and a household chore or two that allows them to contribute to the home and family.
Academic work could include reading, math workbooks, studying or researching a topic of interest. Chores might include cleaning your room, doing dishes, helping a younger sibling get ready or working in the yard.
We love what he recommends for dealing with the pushback you might receive from all ages:
“Just make sure, as the kids complain about this process, that you ignore all that. Completely and unapologetically… ignore it all. Remember: We’re not asking for much… perhaps a total of 90 minutes to a couple hours out of a full day of fun.”
He says this is also a great time to remind them that they get to choose the fun after the work is done. Feel free to let your kid take some time to relax and play a video game or text a friend, but they will likely be ready for more active play after this simple morning routine.
This may seem odd to include in a morning routine, but it is one of the first things to go at the start of summer.
According to Dr. Cheryl Tierney, chief of behavior and developmental pediatrics at Penn State Children’s Hospital, “It’s about having a balance [during the summer]. Compromise is reasonable.”
First and foremost, she says you still need to stick to a schedule for when you will go to bed and for when you wake up. You can even work it into your plan during your morning routine.
For younger children, she recommends only letting them stay up an hour past their normal bedtime. They will likely wake up at the same time every day regardless of how late they go to sleep.
“Children can get short-tempered as the day goes on,” she said in an interview with Health Day. “Instead of looking like they need a nap, it can look a lot like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in some younger children.”
For older kids, they can stay up two hours past their typical bedtime, but she suggests you also only let them sleep in an hour or two. That means no sleeping until noon!
And this schedule doesn’t apply to just kids and parents who are staying home. Dr. McLaughlin sees the change in attitude and performance even with working parents who have to stick to their year round schedule during the summer months.
“If your morning routine isn’t designed to maximize productivity, then you’re missing an opportunity to boost your performance in both life and business.”