Finding Your Summer Routine

By early June, kids are excited for the last day of school and parents -- eager as they are for a break from the daily grind -- are thinking, what the heck are we gonna do for the next three months? Every parent lives in fear of hearing their kids say those two little words: “I’m bored.”

Summer is the season for a break in our normal routines. It’s a good thing. But it can also be anxiety-provoking, as the things parents typically anchor the family calendar around -- school and kids’ extracurricular activities -- are conspicuously absent.

You don’t have to be lost, untethered. You just have to find the routines that jive with a more laid back season. Here’s how:

  1. Anchor the day around five transitions. There are five common touch points that exist, whether school is in session or not: waking up, getting out the door, afternoon, dinner and bedtime. These five moments anchor your child’s day in every season. If you have a routine for these, you’ll never feel too out of control.
  2. Think about Saturdays and Sundays as seven blocks of time. Friday night, then Saturday and Sunday mornings, afternoons and evenings. Think about how you want to spend each block ahead of time, whether it’s the fun stuff (beach day, barbeque, pancake breakfast)or obligatory stuff (grocery shopping, yardwork). It means you won’t ever get to behind on the things that always have to get done, regardless of the season.
  3. Automate some fun. Kids and parents can struggle with the lack of built-in interactions with other kids and families, which happens naturally at school. In the summer, create routines and habits that make getting together with friends easy. One idea: host a Friday night movie night for your neighborhood friends and their kids. Your friends anchor their schedule around that given. You get faster at setting up the space, having the right snacks, and selecting the movie (because you get weekly practice). Everyone wins.
  4. Summer is a time to make memories. As kids change and grow, so, too, do family traditions. What family summer tradition can you establish this year, and how might you be able to adjust it in the coming years? One family I know attends a family reunion during the second weekend in June every year. It’s on their calendar well in advance and they look forward to it. Another family vacations outside the U.S. every summer -- the mom, Claire, says it’s the best way for her kids, aged 14, 11 and 7, to spend quality time together. Another family rents a giant lake house with three other families for one week in July. It’s a way for the parents (and kids) to stay connected, even though they don’t live close to each other the rest of the year.

Summer should feel different. It’s nice to take a break from the pace of the school year. But that doesn’t mean it should be without routine at all. Pick and choose for your family where structure is paramount and where it’s ok to be a little lax.

The right mix will keep everyone feeling grounded and connected.