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Changing Routines
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, August 2014

For some of us August represents the "middle" of summer; to others, "the end of summer." It is actually both. As the season begins to change and structured routines return, it can be a great month to "re-think" house rules and practices for the Fall.

Maybe the children in your life have been traveling, visiting friends or relatives, in day or sleep-away camp, or working at summer jobs. During August, family routines are often different. Before you slip back in to the "same old - same old," take some time and imagine what you would like your personal and your family time to look like and how it can be structured.

Consciously consider how you want to begin, go through, and end each day. What are the most effective and healthiest ways to recognize and integrate everyone's spiritual, physical, emotional, work, and school needs? What would you like to adjust? Family dinner? One-on-one time? Involvement with nature? Technology-free experiences?

Settle on two or three changes (maybe they are changes in family rules) and before your fall "routine" begins again, share your thoughts about what you want to do differently and why. Solicit ideas from each person in the family and honestly consider what might work. Try some suggestions for one or two weeks.

Once you decide, slowly start to change some of the routine so it's not such a shock in September. Most of us (children included) do better when our days begin to have a little more structure. For example, begin rolling the bedtimes back by 10 or 15 minutes a night to slowly move kids into their school schedule. Observe what your kids are doing rather than what they're saying and make adjustments as necessary. At the same time, be sure to listen when they share their feelings about the end of summer or some concerns about the school year and involve them in exploring solutions.

Consider designating an official end of summer to help mark the transition. Celebrate the summer ending over a special picnic or potluck where everyone can talk about their favorite moments of the past two-to-three months. Rituals like this can help family members carry happy memories into the fall.

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