Because sometimes (often times) kids who have come from hard places require more structure than the typical kid, I thought I’d share the schedule our family is using to help bring in structure where structure might not previously exist. I cannot take full credit for this; to be honest, I’d probably be floundering, knowing we needed a schedule, but afraid to commit to one if it weren’t for the help of the family therapist we’ve been seeing for several months now. With the help of this outline, I feel like summer isn’t going to run all over us this time around; we have a plan, albeit a plan with plenty of room for flexibility if needed.
7:00 am: Kids are allowed out of their rooms. Get dressed, make beds, have breakfast together.
Note: My older three are perfectly fine looking at a regular alarm clock and either reading or playing quietly in their rooms until the display reads 7:00. Our daughter from China struggled a bit with this. She wanted to be able to see me right away in the morning to confirm my presence, and then she was fine with playing quietly until time to have breakfast. This year, I purchased a new clock for her that changed colors when it’s time to come out of her room, and she LOVES it! Having that more tangible change has made a world of difference in her morning anxiety being lessened. I bought this one.
8:15 – 10:15 am: Organized Activity Time
Note: Because we live in South Texas where the heat dominates our every move, our outdoor time typically occurs during this window. Bike riding, chalk drawing, a trip to the zoo or the park with friends are things you will find us doing before the sun is too high in the sky.
10:15 – 10:30 am: Snack Break
Note: We include something with protein in the mix to help balance the blood sugar and stave off situations in which we become hangry. This applies to both kids and mama.
10:30 – 11:00 am: Chore Time
Note: We often listen to music during this time, which adds a bit of fun to the mix. Sometimes it’s more Dance Party than Chore Time, but that’s okay.
11:00 – Noon: Free Time
Note: “Free time” is still structured. I will choose a few activities (reading, puzzles, Play-Doh, coloring, etc…) for them to choose from. For several of our kids, even free time needs to have an element of structure to it in order for it to feel more predictable, and therefore safer.
Noon: Lunch Time
12:30 – 1:45 pm: Flex Time
Note: This time slot is used for family group time (therapy activities), or sibling time. We also run errands during this time, or swim. It really is the most flexible time of the day.
1:45 – 2:00 pm: Snack Break
Note: Again, making sure to include protein as part of the snack.
2:00 – 3:00 pm: “Hour of Power”
Note: This is when the kids go to their room and read or rest. It’s also when Mama gets a breather, because by 2pm, I’m what I like to call TBRI tired. Intentional parenting is tough work, and a break time is important for everyone involved!
3:00 – 4:00 pm: Educational Activity
Note: Reading to themselves, me reading out-loud to them, working on math flash cards, practice writing words, short science units… there is a lot of fun stuff out there that is free to print and do with your kiddos during the summer! If they are interested in a topic, this is when we research it, or check out books at the library about the topic.
4:00 – 5:00 pm: TV/screen time, one-on-one time if a kiddo needs a little extra that day.
5:00 pm: Work on Dinner
Note: Allow kids to help as much as possible. Good teamwork opportunities abound with meal prep, which is a challenge for me since I just like to get it done and cleaned up as quickly as possible. I’ve found when I relax and think more intentionally about it being a chance for all of us to work together, things seem to go more smoothly.
About 6:00 pm: Eat Dinner
6:30 -7:30 pm: Family Time (swim, play games, read aloud, walk the dog around the neighborhood, etc…)
7:30 pm: Begin Evening/Bedtime Routine
Obviously, life happens, and our schedule isn’t chiseled into stone. There are family vacations thrown into the mix where we do the best we can, and days when there are doctor appointments, therapy appointments, out of town visitors, holidays, camps for the kids to attend, and I’ve left out the times when mama gets a babysitter for a few hours to get out and about sans children.
Any attempted schedule should never ever bring more stress to your life. If it does, it may be time to re-evaluate, maybe even bring in an outside opinion or two, as sometimes it’s challenging to step outside of the parenting bubble and see what would work best from an objective point of view.
The schedule isn’t about being perfect, or about preventing any and all meltdowns or tantrums. What it does do is help our kids who need more structure to feel secure in our families, and when they feel secure, they thrive.
This is our third summer as a family of six, and if I’m honest, it’s the first summer where I’m not bracing myself and prepping for survival mode.
I want summer to be more than just survival, and it can be.