5 Scheduling Tips to Pare Down & Enjoy Summer
The kids are out of school, shuttling among camps, swim lessons, karate and dance. There are graduation and birthday parties, weddings, a family reunion, book clubs, date nights, and the general craziness that comes with long, warm days.
It’s enough to drive a parent mad — and to skimp on sleep. Prepping and driving everybody where they need to go takes a lot of time. But parenting experts caution that summertime is also a good time to cut back on activities, so everyone enjoys the weather, and each other, while preserving the right amount of healthy shut-eye.
“Over-scheduling is simply not good for kids or parents,”states Dr. Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and behavioral scientist who also teaches at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has written extensively on how over-scheduling and busyness can harm child development. Summer is exciting because there’s so much to do, but he cautions that it’s a good idea to resist the temptation to attend every event.
“There’s health and emotional, and even sleep consequences, of essentially overstimulating our kids,” he warns, “You don’t want your kids lying around doing absolutely nothing for the summer, but at the same time, if kids are staying up too late, and if they’re literally being cognitively or mentally exhausted, their sleep suffers.”
Jenn LeFlore, creator of the Chicago-based Mama Fresh Chi lifestyle brand for city moms, agrees. She “puts a pause” on all extracurricular activities for the summer in favor of more lighthearted fun. “Flexibility is key for summer,” says LeFlore. “We’ve paused our standard classes and will pick them back up in the fall.”
It’s not always easy to step off the roller-coaster of warm weather activities. These tips from experts might help families start down that path.
1. Select activities mindfully
Being mindful of what the family needs to do and why they should do it is the first step to reducing anxiety and relaxing into summer. Mindfulness expert Dr. Amy Saltzman created a curriculum to help parents and children work together to practice being present. Parents can be mindful in selecting activities adds LeFlore, who recommends that parents try one class instead of four or five.
2. Look to your child for clues
Children often talk back, and become aggressive and hyper when they need rest and downtime, tell Klapow. “Does your kid look exhausted? Are they getting sick? Are they falling asleep at or before dinner?” This behavior gives a parent permission, so to speak, to reduce activities.
3. Ask yourself a few key questions & ignore social media
Review your schedule as if you are a therapist for someone else, offers Klapow. Is there time during the day for rest? Are they going to bed at a reasonable hour? Is there time for dinner? Is there time for summer studying? If not, says Klapow, suggest that your client remove activities that interfere with rest, sleep and unstructured play. Also, note that social media images don’t show the cranky babies, sullen teens, and summer sore throats that often stem from poor sleep.
4. It’s OK to say no
“Don’t be fooled by what you think everybody else thinks,” states Klapow. She says if you are running ragged and/or seeing the same people at the same events — so are they. It’s hard sometimes to feel like you’re disappointing family or friends, but attending one party a month instead of four will make you a happier guest and a better, more rested friend.
5. Get active with the kids
“Summer is the time to reinforce things you’re learning in other parts of the year. So if you’re already into soccer, it’s time to kick the ball around as a family,” suggests LeFlore. The extra activity will be good for parents and kids, and will build a memory that means more than yet another STEM or art class.
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