How to Create a Summer Routine for Better Behavior

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A young child confided in me that she doesn’t actually like the summer months. I was surprised when she said it. I’ve been working with kids of all ages for nearly two decades and one thing I hear over and over again is that summer is the best time of the year. No homework. No busy schedules. Lower stress all around. With one exception. “My parents always want to do stuff at night.” As it turns out, frequent parties with friends and neighbors, local concerts in the park, bonfires at the beach, and various other “fun” summer activities threw this girl off course. She craved her nightly routine. The stress of constant change was too much for her.

Summer can be a ton of fun and there are a million and one reasons to throw the schedule out the window in an effort to live in the moment and make memories. But I can give you one very good reason to hang onto some of that structure and create a summer routine. It keeps your kids healthy and happy.

Sleep debt can creep up on kids fairly quickly. Losing an hour of sleep a night for just a couple of nights can raise stress levels and result in behavioral changes.

Tantrums, anxious behaviors, frequent crying, and oppositional behavior can all spike when kids are low on sleep and off their routines. While it’s great to enjoy long summer days and chase fireflies at night, it’s essential to find balance during these less structured months.

Consistent bedtimes are a must

A few late nights or a couple of skipped naps over the course of the summer shouldn’t be too much of a problem. But those should be the exception, not the new normal. Without fail, I am flooded with phone calls from worried parents every September because their kids can’t get up the morning, fall apart after school every day, or refuse to even go to school.

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Sleep deprivation negatively impacts every part of a child’s life. Keep your kids on their normal bedtime schedule throughout the summer, even on weekends.

Eat at regular intervals

It’s easy to get off schedule with eating during the summer months. Treats are everywhere. The hours tick by at a steady pace. Kids are outside having fun and forget to listen to their bodies.

Try to adhere to your normal eating patterns to help kids stay healthy and energized. While hot weather might cause us to crave things like ice cream, we do need to continue to eat balanced meals. Enjoy those summer ice cream treats, but balance them with delicious summer fruits.

Everything in moderation


Summer is not the time to break all the technology rules and sit back while your kids spend an entire day glued to screens. If we want kids to learn how to self-regulate and make healthy choices, we have to give them some guidelines along the way. That includes teaching them about the pros and cons of technology use. Technology can be a wonderful tool and games are a ton of fun, but you can have too much of a good thing.

Make time

My kids love the increased independence they have in the summer months, and this builds their self-confidence. But they also need to connect with me. When our connection is low because of my work schedule or because they’re off doing their stuff for extended periods with their friends, I can see a shift. It’s up to me to help my family learn to balance work, fun with friends, and family. Sometimes that means saying no to a party in favor of board games and S’Mores at home or skipping out on group play to enjoy a family walk through the woods.

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Kids need to connect with their parents. They need small moments to be together and check in and larger moments to unwind and refuel their souls. Make time and be present. Your kids will thrive because of it.

Do you have a summer routine?

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How to Create a Summer Routine for Better Behavior

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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