It was the end of June, a weekday, 10:48 am. Two of my kids were lounging on the couch in their pajamas, watching the umpteenth episode of Odd Squad. My oldest was still in bed.
My youngest whined, “Can I have fruit snacks?”
I looked at my watch. We had 45 minutes to get to a dentist appointment. I knew this was going to be a battle. Taking a deep breath, I launched into the “We-have-to-get-up-and-get-ready” speech, which was met with more whining and children who move like sloths.
Summer is for relaxing, isn’t it? Letting kids have some space to just have fun? But this wasn’t fun for me at all. Where had I gone wrong, I wondered? When summer break finally begins, it’s nice to just relax. No alarm clocks, no homework, no rushing… But sometimes we can get a bit too relaxed, and before we know it, some bad habits have settled in. Here are 5 bad habits of summer and how to avoid them.
1. Sleeping in
If your kids are older, there’s a good chance they have discovered the beauty of sleeping in. It can be nice for us too… having a little quiet time before the day begins! However, sleeping in too late means they are likely going to stay up later. It also makes things difficult when you have a morning appointment. With teens especially, sleeping in beyond what’s necessary can cause a feeling of increased fatigue, similar to jet lag.
The key is actually bedtime. Set a summer bedtime that is a bit flexible and later than the school year bedtime. This way, kids get to sleep in a little, but not all morning. Also don’t feel guilty about setting an alarm in the summertime, even just for one of your children who may need extra “help” getting up.
2. Having no morning routine
While having a “PJ Day” is fun to do once in a while, when this is the norm, it can wear on you. You have to nag everyone to get dressed and moving. Chores get put off until “later,” and later never comes.
Instead, let kids know what the next day’s schedule is going to be the night before: i.e., hot breakfast will be ready at 9:00, and we are leaving for the park at 10:00. When kids have the motivation to get up and dressed, they are more likely to cooperate.
Another option is to use a checklist to earn “free time.” Kids might balk at the list at first, but after a few days, they’ll zip through it automatically so they can get their free time.
3. Excessive Snacking
Who doesn’t love an afternoon snack? The problem is when snacking happens constantly. Not only does it drive you nuts, but it often puts empty calories into their bodies and keeps kids from eating their actual meals.
Avoid the all-day-snacking habit by having 1-2 set snack times. Create a snack bowl filled with healthier snacks. Allow kids to choose 1 snack in the morning, and 1 in the afternoon.
Snacking at the pool can be the biggest challenge! Stick to bringing fruit and raw veggies in a little cooler, and you won’t feel as bad about letting them dig into it.
4. Having no boundaries with neighbor kids
When you live in a neighborhood, kids come out of the woodwork in the summertime and end up on your back porch asking for popsicles! While having friends for your kids to play with is a huge blessing, having no boundaries can burn you out quickly.
Determine what kind of “play time” it is, and don’t feel guilty about establishing some boundaries from the get-go.
5. Not reading or practicing math
I get it. Kids need a break from school work. But taking a 3-month break from reading and math isn’t a good idea; kids may regress. Avoid this by taking a weekly trip to the library and participating in their summer reading program. Work some math flash cards or online math games into your morning routine. There are a lot of fun things out there. Kids will barely know they are still learning and growing.
You know your family best, and the overall goal is to find that unique and delicate balance between rest and work, flexibility and structure.