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Keeping Kids And Teens On A Schedule In The Summer Helps Them Thrive

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s tempting to forget about structure during the summer, and let kids have their freedom. But too much relaxation can actually be a detriment to kids. One Salt Lake family thrives by sticking with a plan.

The Armstrong kids say like most siblings, they don’t always get along. But they love each other. “It’s that three-kid dynamic,” says Sarah Armstrong, their mother, who lives with her family in Salt Lake City.

Sarah is all about schedules, even in summer. She says a routine keeps everyone productive, and keeps the peace.

Her daughter, 12-year-old Madison Armstrong, said, “When she yells, no offense, Mom, but she is scary.”

Sarah said, “None taken.”

Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Natalie Sergent, a psychologist at Wasatch Canyons Center for Counseling, says Sarah is spot on. “Kids thrive on structure. Schedules take the uncertainty out of things and uncertainty is what breeds anxiety in children.”

Sergent recommends creating a visual schedule everyone can see.

The Armstrongs’ to-do lists include chores. Isabel, age 8, likes some. “Making my bed is actually kind of fun,” she said. “I get to put my pillows in a pattern.” The others? Not so much. “I don’t really like chores. The one I don’t like is weed-garden. But it’s good to do them.”

Sleep is also key, even now when the temptation is to stay up late. Sergent said, “It impacts mood, irritability, anxiety. It can impact everything.” She recommends kids and teens get up to 11 hours of sleep when possible. “It’s important to stay on that schedule even when there’s not necessarily something to wake up for in the morning.”

Sarah agrees. “Sleep is key to their attitude and mine,” she said. “It helps them so they aren’t cranky or moody the next day.”

Sean Armstrong, age 14, will start high school in the fall. “It helps a lot,” he said. “I’m just better, and I’m like willing to do things more.”

A set bedtime also makes the transition back to school much easier, when therapists see an uptick in kids seeking therapy for stress. “We don’t get a lot of head-butting about, ‘What? We have to go to bed?’” Sarah said. “Because we haven’t let them stay up all night all summer long.”

Brushing up on academics also eases back-to-school anxiety. “It could even be fun things like computer games that have an academic component or activity books,” Sergent said.

It all adds up to happy, healthy kids now, who hopefully grow into accomplished adults. “I think that just teaching the kids responsibility will help them to be more productive as they go through life,” Sarah said.

And more equipped to handle things when it’s time to go back to school.

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