Every year around the August long weekend comments of ‘I can’t believe summer’s already over’ start to creep into our conversations and thoughts. Rather than enjoying another full month of summer, many people allow a cloud of “it’s over” to hover in the peripheral. I admit that sometimes I am one of those people. I start to grieve the end of the lazy days of summer, the warm sunshine, spending time outside and dread the upcoming craze of pumpkin spice everything (yes, I am not a fan of pumpkin – very risky of me to admit out loud, I know). But then I stop and realize that there’s still much more summer left (remember technically summer goes until mid-September) and the Fall isn’t a horrible scary time. Not only does September still offer gorgeous warm sunny days, but it also brings back something so important to people – routine.
Of course, I am right there with others looking to set aside the same old routine when July or a vacation comes around but, I have to admit, that at a certain point I miss the routine of things. Routines are so integral for families to keep things rolling and ensuring that kids get the stability that they need and crave. While throwing out the routine can be fun for a little bit, have you noticed that after a prolonged period without a routine your kids begin behaving differently? Do you notice that the absence of a routine leaves you a bit short on patience?
What if we started to look at the Fall as an opportunity to review our old routines and adjust them so that it best meets the needs of you and your kids? As your family changes, so can your routines. Why not take the time to sit with your family and look at what the school routine was like last year and have a conversation about what worked well and what needs to be changed. Naturally routines change as the family changes, just think, if we didn’t change school routines, teenagers would still have to go to bed at 7:30 pm! Imagine that – telling your 16-year-old to go to bed at 7:30 pm.
My point is that with Fall around the corner, it doesn’t have to be considered a bad thing – this dreadful grey cloud waiting to come in and make things boring. Parents may get tired of the school routine or more accurately - fighting with the kids to implement the routine but at the end of the day, kids crave and need routines. The stability and consistency routines provide ensures that the kids feel secure, are comforted, and are supported with their development of a sense of responsibility. Routines, as we say in mediation, are in the best interest of the child.
In important element of the discussion around routines is if your kids spend time between homes, and whether your parenting plan is up to date. Does it still function with your family for the stage that it’s at? There is nothing wrong, and it’s not a ‘failure,’ if you need to come to mediation to adjust the parenting plan to best meet the needs of your child(ren). As adults you need to look at the current parenting plan and ask yourselves if it is still what is in = your child(ren) best interests. Does the 2-2-5 split still work now that the child(ren) are older? Have you factored in whether the child(ren) want to join school teams/clubs and how that could be affected when they switch homes?
Parenting plans are integral to your family’s routine so if it’s not working, then why not come to mediation to figure out a revised plan. We can all agree that we do not want any kids left wondering or stressing out about whether they can go see their friends or do another activity without mom or dad being upset that it cuts into their time. Remember routines are meant to provide kids with stability and comfort. This is where as adults you will have to consider compromising what you want (ie: that extra hour with the kids) with what will make the kids feel safe and happy. The changes do not have to be major at all, it could be as simple as shifting a pickup time or location.
I think we can all take a collective sigh of relief in knowing that there is still plenty of summer left and that getting back to the fall routine is a good thing. Take the opportunity to talk with your child(ren) about the Fall and what it means in terms of routines. This discussion will help alleviate concerns that your child(ren) may have about what will September look like. And remember, kids are like little sponges so if they see you dreading the Fall, they will too. So don’t resist the Fall, embrace it (and all its pumpkin spice glory).