Creating Summer Structure for Kids 12 & Under - Premier Counseling
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Creating Summer Structure for Kids 12 & Under

By Mackenzi Davis, LCSW

Summer, Summer, Summer tiiiimmmeeee ooooohhhh Summer time! *In my Will Smith voice* Anybody remember that song? In 1991, it was the sound of summer. Today, summer might sound a little different, but it pretty much looks the same. At this point, school is out. Teachers are living their best lives. Your children have probably been on summer break since the beginning of May (even if they were still in the classroom), and you are trying to figure out how to survive the next 10-12 weeks. No worries, you got this! Giving kids free time during the summer is important, but they still need structure. Keep reading for tips to add a little structure to your child’s summer fun. At Central Arkansas Group Counseling, our team members love working with families to improve their lives. That includes helping parents maintain some semblance of structure during summer months. If you need a little help, don’t forget we’re here for you with parenting support and family therapy services.

It Can’t be That Hard to Create Summertime Structure – Right?

Things were so much simpler in the days when social media, cell phones, and electronics did not rule the world. Providing structure in the summer can be a real challenge when kids won’t put down their screens. In a perfect world, parents could spend the summer with their children and have an amazing schedule that allows for education, vacation, fun, and the least amount of melt downs possible. That’s not all that realistic. The reality is parents have to work, and some kids are not ready to be home alone at the age of 12. At this point, it is a balancing act of doing the best that you can. Cue the electronics!

The Supervision Question

If you’re a busy, working parent, the main summertime struggle is likely going to be the same – supervision. We’re talking about kids 12 and under in our blog this month, so chances are they shouldn’t be left unsupervised. For many parents, the added cost of enrolling kids in daycare, day camps, or other programs throughout the summer is the best option. Typically, it’s not recommended for kids under 12 to be left alone, but every child is different. There is not a magical switch that flips on your child’s 12th birthday making them mature enough to stay home. You are the person who knows your child best. If you think that your child will do well at home, give it a trial run. Let them stay home alone for half an hour while you run errands.

Quick Tips for Summer Structure

Do you remember the summer feeling – the last day of school, sprinting across the parking lot, jumping for joy extasy of looking forward summer freedom? Giving kids summer structure doesn’t mean you have to completely remove this joy from their lives. Consider the following options to give kids a little more structure for the summer months:

Maintain Meal and Sleep Schedules

This can be a tough one. Many kids interpret the summer as their time to sleep all day and stay up all night, but this can be a challenge for parents who still have to get up in the morning and go to work. You can certainly give them a little more leniency, but letting kids become nocturnal during the summer months will likely come back to haunt you this fall. Keep it simple. Whether you’re heading out the door in the morning or staying home, get kids up and eat breakfast together. Daycares typically have a set lunch schedule, but if you have a sitter, make sure they do lunch around the same time each day. Then, make time for family dinner, and get everyone back in bed at the same time.

Consider a Summer Camp (or two or three)

You’ll likely save some money on child care even if the camp isn’t free, and it will get your kids away from their screens for a while.

Get Active

Kids need at least 60 minutes of activity to develop good coordination and healthy bones, joints, and muscles, so get active. Take a family walk after dinner, get outside and play a game together, take a bike ride, or go to the pool. If you’re relying on sitters, make sure they know about any screen time limits and ask them to include physical activity in their daily plans for the kids.

Visit the Central Arkansas Group Counseling Team

We know that being a parent is not easy. You are asked to make tough decisions every day. Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. The Central Arkansas Group Counseling team is here to help. We offer family counseling, parenting support, and therapy for kids and teens. Give us a call if you want to learn more about our counseling services.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash