Relax the Rules, and the Schedule, this Summer

cerealHow do you convince your kid that even though the sun’s still up, it’s bedtime anyway?


Maybe you don’t. Maybe you just … chill.

“Our summer rules are more relaxed, and for us, one of the perks is running around the backyard with the neighbor kids after dinner instead of the usual march to bedtime,” says Evanston mom Nancy Ulanowicz Bennett. “That includes popsicles almost every day, and bug catching, of course. But all of the bugs they capture need to be let out after a day in captivity.”

Anne Haack Sullivan, mom of two in Wilmette, decided to make Tuesday and Thursday unscheduled days so her two kids “could sleep in, goof around and just be bored, like I was in my childhood summers.”

“I think they need to relax and use their imaginations sometimes!” Haack Sullivan says. “I’m also not scheduling too many play dates. I will send an e-mail, text or voicemail saying, ‘Hey we’re going to the … and we’d love to have you join us,’ and sometimes other people just show up.  We also eat a lot of meals at the snack bar. And it’s not the grilled chicken.”

Dads like summer rules, too. Evanston dad Brooke Saucier says, “My daughter Julia has a stock of generally healthy breakfast cereals on hand during the school year. But, we have always observed the ‘vacation cereal’ rule, which she has applied to summer vacation. So, we have Honey Smacks, Cocoa Krispies, etc., around during the summer.”

According to Scott Feldman, M.D., a child and teen psychiatrist in Evanston, it’s great to ease up on the rules over the summer as a way to decompress from the intensity of the school year and extracurricular activities. But, he has some advice for parents.

“First, keep in mind that many parents over-schedule their kids during the summer and recreate the exact type of frenetic pace of the rest of the year, which can lead to parents being even less connected with their kids as they have less free time to play with each other as a family.”

Feldman adds this recommendation for kids who need a more structured schedule. “If you have a child who responds to lots of structure during the school year, and becomes agitated, hyper, or disengaged without limits and structure, you should consider maintaining a similar summer version of your schedule.”

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