Saturday, June 27, 2015

It's Summer and Mama NEEDS Peace and Quiet!


Summer is here, and that means that my (and many other) children are out of school.  Each Summer, I daydream about how nice it will be to sleep in and spend relaxing days with my kids.  That's a nice thought, but it rarely seems to happen!  For even when we do have down days, the relaxation piece is still missing.  Make sense?  If you are a parent, you understand!  If we parents (specifically moms) aren't running around taking care of domestic duties and children's needs all day long, we feel guilty.  The Mom Guilt.  Isn't it fun?  NO!  So let's say that by some bizarre and crazy reason, we actually find a few moments of sweet bliss and we sit down to relax.  We smile.  We giggle a little inside, maybe even outside too.  We take a deep breath and lay our head back on the pillow of our soft couch.  All is well in the world.  Peace is restored.  The universe loves us and we love it back.  Nothing could be better than this very moment of pure happiness...until we are interrupted with tattling, yelling, and fits of boredom.  That didn't last long!  Ugh!  Sound familiar?  Then keep reading.

This Summer I have been on a bit of a (physical and mental) health kick. I go through phases when it comes to my health, and when I am in a good phase, my kids are in a good phase.  I realize that kids benefit from basic structure and responsibility when it comes to managing their health.  Therefore, this Summer, I decided to do a bit of hands on research with my kids and make daily "To Do Lists" or guidelines as I like to call them.  We did this research by visiting medical programs focused on children's health, visiting my children's pediatrician, and going to the dentist.  Then we created the lists.  The structure these guidelines are providing to my kids, are helping to create a calm environment.  As a result, peace is once again restored, and I am quietly giggling once again.  Or singing.  Or humming.  Or smiling.  Bottom line-I am one happy mama!

Before I discuss the guidelines I created with my children, I want to say that I am NOT a Doctor, Nutritionist, or Psychologist.  I am Parent, former Teacher, and I hold a BA in Psychology and a MA in Education.  I am a firm believer in trial and error and tweaking things to work with different personalities, so I ask you to keep those things in mind when reading my guideline suggestions.

I have found that kids thrive on responsibility and independence.  When they feel like they have no choices, they feel powerless.  They stop thinking for themselves.  Boredom sets in, and tempers flare.  To teach my children responsibility, and independence, I allow them to take control of their day by using their checklist as their guideline.

Essentially, these guidelines are really a daily schedule/checklist which can be followed in a flexible order for the most part. Each day the guidelines change a bit, but many parts stay the same.  For example, they may choose to use to do their physical activity before schoolwork if they want, and they may also choose what type of physical activity or schoolwork they want to do (within reason).

The general checklist includes:
  • Brush Teeth (morning and night)
  • Make Bed (morning)
  • Pick up Toys (throughout the day)
  • Morning Activity (this may be a morning summer camp type of program, or other planned activity)
  • Fruits (throughout the day-include specific amounts/servings if desired)
  • Vegetables (throughout the day-include specific amounts/servings if desired)
  • Physical Activity (1 hour per medical advice-swimming, dancing, walking, bike/scooter, wii fit, etc.)
  • Screen Time (2 hours per medical advice-tablets, video games, etc.)*
  • School Work (worksheets, reading, educational games, etc.)
  • Hugs, Kisses, and Tickles from Parent (my daughter wanted this on the list since this is one her favorite parts of the day!)
  • Bath or Shower

*Upon the advice of medical professionals, I decided my children would have no more than 2 hours of screen time daily.  They don't have to spend that amount of screen time each day, it just provides them with a limit.  The time can be split up and generally isn't used when we have busy schedules.  If doing this, I recommend spreading out screen time throughout the day, and primarily using the full 2 hours on slow Summer days, (not busy days throughout the school year).  I personally do not include TV watching to be part of screen time.  That is because our days are pretty full, so we don't have a lot of time available to watch TV.  If my kids see a program here or there, it isn't much and I am not too concerned.  If limiting TV time is desired in your household, include TV in screen time on your checklist.

 These lists are flexible and may be changed as needed.  My kids like to add fun items when applicable.  For example, my kids are allowed to eat out once per week on Thursdays, (a day they chose).  They like to make sure this eating out treat is added to their list on Thursdays.  They get to choose the place and type of food when eating out.  Giving them the power to decide these things, provides learning opportunities for independence and responsibility.  It also encourages decision-making skills.  I have even started to notice they are making healthy eating out choices!  Yippee!  This comes as a result of focusing on a healthy lifestyle.  Be flexible when considering your child's individual needs when making these lists.  If you have a child that needs to work on a certain behavior, such as drinking milk, or eating protein, I would add that to the list. While flexibility is important, providing a foundation that stays the same is also of value.  Children love consistency, and clear expectations, so switching things up too much can be confusing.  Keep a baseline of items that stay the same, and add/delete others as needed.

So how does this list aid in creating a peaceful environment?  Instead of arguing with my child to do schoolwork, or make their bed, they simply do it because it is on the checklist.  Instead of complaining about boredom, my children turn to the checklist and find something to do.  They know they can always play throughout the day and when their checklist is completed.  Overall, they appreciate knowing what they are doing each day and they like making choices.  For the most part, this list has worked well.  My children haven't always completed the checklist 100% of the time, and that is ok with me as long as they are generally doing what is expected of them.  The list is heavily followed on weekdays, and only loosely followed on the weekends.  I have found that when children know what is expected of them, they will generally (not always) aim to please.   Happy children make happy moms and vice versa.   As a result, happy moms find peace! 

These guidelines have inspired me to create a variety of checklist charts for kids that will be available soon.  I will be sure to post about them after they have been completed.

Thanks for reading! 

I would love to hear about the ways you achieve peace in your house and the guidelines you provide throughout the Summer for your children.  Please comment below.

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