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As we head into summer, it can be helpful to set clear expectations for our kids, in order to avoid challenges and ensure that everyone in the family has fun. The summer months tend to create a relaxed approach to daily life and can often lead to bad habits that then require a lot of time and energy to reverse in the fall.  Two ways to maintain consistency and keep things on track are making sure your child gets enough sleep and enforcing clear limits on the use of screens and devices.

Making sure everyone is getting enough sleep is essential. It is fine to stay up past bedtime every now and then, but sleep deprivation can often be the culprit when kids are uncooperative, whiny, cranky, or just a straight up mess. The research has shown that kids rack up sleep debt if they don’t get enough sleep. Losing even 20 minutes of sleep 3 days in a row can significantly affect cognition – the ability to learn and process. The research has also found that IQ levels can actually drop a grade level or two. It is important to keep structure while being flexible. Just remember that we cannot expect our children to function properly a day or two after staying up late, especially when they have been up late a few days in a row.

With so much free time, it can be a slippery slope when it comes to the use of screens and devices. To avoid typical power struggles be sure to make an agreement with your child about the use of screens and social media. In Screens, Devices, and Apps…Oh My! , we talked about why it’s important to set limits and what factors to consider when initiating a conversation about what screen usage looks like in your home.

Some families like to use a device usage contract as a guide to clearly lay out what children can use, when they can use it, the length of time it can be used, and the purpose for the use. Having clear guidelines will not only help limit the common power struggles around device usage, but will also encourage more active and more cognitively stimulating play. And if you are lucky they will be bored and have to get creative about how they entertain themselves.

By making an extra effort to maintain consistency in sleep schedules and by setting clear limits on screen use you will ensure a more relaxed and enjoyable time with your kiddos this summer. Children tend to be calmed by repetitive behavior, so keeping your family rituals and habits consistent will help in avoiding power struggles and challenges.

This article originally appeared on the Committee For Children blog

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