Children and teens crave predictability from the adults around them. Even babies need to be reassured that a parent will take care of them when they cry. Having a sense of dependability means security for your kid, and the stronger this sense of reassurance is, the healthier that kid’s attachment and emotional health will be.
Why is structure important for my child’s mental health?
In creating a sense of dependability and allowing your children to feel safe in their environment, you’ll find that implementing a daily schedule is a positive practice for several reasons. Structure not only reinforces that children will be cared for, it also reduces the amount of work you need to do, fosters independence, helps children have fun and decreases family stress.
When you have a set routine, your kids will know what to expect and will stop nagging you about what they’re doing next, asking what time it is and asking to do a particular activity. A few days or weeks after implementing a set schedule, your kids can predict what’s up next on the list and will know when to expect their favorite activities.
Structure can ease your mind, too. The emotional energy it takes to fill the day with entertainment for your children is enough to wear anyone down, so there’s no need to redo it every day. Stick to the outline of a basic schedule and you’ll save yourself plenty of trouble.
Structure can also help your child’s mental health because it fosters independence and confidence. The longer you have a routine in place, the sooner your children will be able to begin the next item on the agenda without needing directions. For example, if you teach your kids to brush their teeth after waking up, they’ll soon figure out how to do it without guidance.
Structure also increases the amount of fun you can have over the summer. The energy you save from following the same format you can pour into enjoying the activities. You can also engage in more new hobbies and events when you plan ahead.
Last, you’ll save your entire family from the inevitable dysfunction of a home with no expectations or routines. When you give your kids the parameters they need to thrive, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy life more.
Which mental health disorders need structure?
All mental health disorders in children and teens can benefit from some type of structure, since dependable structure is an important part of development. Here’s how structure impacts a few common mental health concerns in children.
When children don’t know what to expect, fear starts to build. When that fear is prolonged, anxiety occurs. While there are several forms of anxiety disorders, all of them can benefit from clear expectations and a normal routine. You’ll have to stray from a schedule at times, but this can be a learning opportunity to practice coping with change.
Children and teens who feel no sense of direction or purpose can start to develop clinical depression. A daily schedule can help your kid to add order to their actions and order to their mind. Include things in the schedule that your child will look forward to and breaks to practice mindfulness.
For a child with ADHD, set time limits can make a big impact. For a child who feels restless, knowing when a chance for movement is coming up can make the current task bearable. Scheduling in brain breaks and movement breaks is essential for kids, teens and adults with ADHD.
How can I implement structure during the summer?
There are several ways to ensure your child gets the reassurance he or she needs during the summer months and plenty of online resources to help the days flow smoothly (without giving up on fun).
There are several angles you can choose to take when organizing summer activities. You could opt for a daily schedule that includes everything from meal times to chores or you could go for a bigger picture calendar of the whole summer. Which option (or mix of the two options) you choose will largely depend on your child’s individual needs.
If your child becomes anxious or lethargic without predictable daily tasks, it might be a good idea to schedule the following.
- Wake up time
- Meal times
- Learning time (reading or consuming education materials)
- TV time
- Outdoor time
- Family time
- Bed time
- Play time
- Hanging out with friends
You can also schedule in a cycle of activities. For example, the afternoon could rotate between going to the park, going to the pool, going to grandma’s, going to a friend’s and finding a new place to explore.
Where can I find a sample summer schedule?
You can find a wide variety of summer schedules online through parenting blogs that have free downloads. Of course, it’s important to remember that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of routine. Anything you find will need to be adapted to fit your family’s needs and lifestyle.
A simple search for “kids summer schedule” should provide a launch point for your own schedule, or check out the following samples.
- Summer routines by Printable Parents
- Best Summer Schedule for Kids by Military Wife and Mom blog
- Daily Summer Schedule for Kids that Will Save Your Sanity by the little joys blog
You can also find parenting bloggers on Youtube, or purchase velcro or magnetic schedule charts online like this wooden daily routine chart. Tips for younger kids, use pictures in a schedule instead of words and let older kids and teens have more agency over creating their schedule.
Getting help for child and teen mental health issues
If your child or teen is affected by a mental health disorder and you’re eager to implement a routine but aren’t sure how, contact the Light Program. You and your adolescent can get the services you need to ensure a healthy family environment. Call today.