When a beat is dropped in a song, everything is off: the drummer, lead singer, and the bassist. Same with kids.
Keeping Order in the Heat of Summer
When a nap or meal is skipped, the normal routine and rhythm are off. One area of concern for summer rhythm to say in-sync is the sleep schedule. Sleeping 8-10 hours a night is not only for the normal school day but needs to be reinforced in the summer months.
According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, “circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm.”
For many parents, it is hard to muster the discipline all year so the summer becomes lax; it becomes a time to drop the routine and enjoy more spontaneity. But the truth is sleep is an intrical part of the daily experience. It rejuvenates the mind and body allowing for full functionality. And for kids needing structure, it equates to horrible, no good, very bad days versus lasting memories under the summer sun.
Maintain a Routine
Part of the yearly routine with kids is the calendar countdown until the last day of school: no more lunches to pack, homework to complete, and early mornings to scramble. Routine is replaced with lazy days by the pool and sleepovers with siblings and friends.
Breaking a routine completely is not only unwise but is also harder to thrive as a family unit. Cranky kids without sleep running around with no naps and non regulated activities is the last thing your summer routine needs.
Take the first week of summer break to see how your family routine has changed.
- Are the kids consistently eating lunch by 11 a.m. in school? Change their lunchtime gradually to a later time.
- Are arts and crafts an important activity that fosters their creativity? Add a day in the week like the normal specials at school even including a library or computer day.
- Do they seem agitated in the afternoon? Add in a snack mid-afternoon or a short nap.
By adding small, gradual changes, you can switch the routine to fit the summer activities without sacrificing a schedule.
A few weeks before school begins, gradually set bedtime and the alarm earlier (15 minute increments every few days can be helpful) until the kids are back to their normal routine. It will make the transition back to school easier for both you as the parent and the kids.
It is also important to transition kids entering kindergarten or first grade without scheduled naps at school into a nap-free routine at home.
Creating a routine and setting a consistent sleep schedule does not mean you need to give up the fun. What it does mean is to not overwhelm the kids by having an activity planned everyday and at every hour.
With summer and sun comes plans with friends, activities in the evening, and ice cream runs after dinner. But try to make certain to keep it all in close proximity to a scheduled bedtime. The sun going down later does not help younger kids who do not understand time so blackout curtains may be a helpful addition (and will help the early risers in the morning).
If a bedtime is normally 8 p.m. and the alarm is off by 7 a.m. during the school year, maintain the schedule in the middle of fun activities. Bedtime could be increased by an hour with the hopes of sleeping in due to the outdoor active lifestyle summer brings. Exhausted, sun bathed kids should increase the likelihood of sounder, longer sleep cycles.
And if you still have nappers at home, schedule activities during their best behavior: after breakfast or later in the afternoon by example.
Require Alone Time
Not only should you require alone time for the kids but alone time for you. If your schedule for summer involves being at home with the kids it is important to give each other space.
Kids, especially preschoolers, tend to be overstimulated in the summer months when there are chances to play inside and outside. Quiet time rests their minds from stimulation and also helps slow down their energy. Structured quiet time benefits kids to regulate emotions and to gain independence and self-control over their behavior.
Quiet time also encourages independence where they have to be creative with how they handle situations. “Having uninterrupted time allows our minds to get into their full creative swing. The stories and tales, the imaginative buildings and pictures that come from Quiet Time – when they have no one to impress but themselves – is amazing.”
Depending on the ages of your kids, quiet time will look different for every home. For preschoolers, have a schedule nap time where mom can nap or read a book. For those with elementary-aged children, moms may need to get creative. Schedule a time each day for everyone to go to their own bedrooms and read a book or color. Have family close by? Find a day of the week where you can escape the kids to recharge. Get a pedicure. Go grocery shopping alone. Sit on a bench in the park. Visit a coffee shop. Whatever it takes to recharge, take the time for you to recharge. This will also help energize your time with the kids during the summer.
With everyone enjoying structured quiet time within a normal schedule and routine, summer months will be open to more activities that are full of fun and not full of meltdowns from you or the kids.
Sleep Schedule Still a Nightmare?
You or your child may be suffering from one of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Both can hinder the ability to acclimate to a new schedule or a new routine. Many attribute SAD to winter months but for those who suffer from depression or dislike a change in routine, SAD can affect any age during any season. The summer months can help parents determine if their child is in need of further help.
Because depression is often linked to sleep disorders, we want to help you get the best treatment for your disorder. If you think you, or a loved one, may have seasonal affective disorder, feel free to contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic for any of your sleep related needs, and get started on your way to a happier, healthier summer life.
If you live in the Anchorage, Wasilla, Fairbanks or Soldotna areas, call Alaska Sleep Clinic for a free 10-minute consultation or schedule a sleep study today.