Ask Miriam | Consistency Crucial Even in Summer

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car driving along the beach with a pile of luggage on top
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Dear Miriam,

A few weeks ago, you wrote about loosening family dinner schedules and mealtime expectations during summer vacation. I’m having sort of the opposite problem, though: How do I maintain my family’s rhythms and structures during more than a month of travel this summer? How can we make time away from home still feel familiar and tethered to the rest of our lives?

Signed,

Traveling Rhythm

Dear Traveling,

Oh summer. It is such a Catch-22 of double-edged swords and grass is always greener cliches. The real answer to all summer-related schedule issues is a yearlong three-day work week/four-day weekend schedule, but I don’t make the rules, I just give the advice.

I would suggest picking one or two touch points during each day to do just like you do at home, or as close as you can. The most obvious one with kids is probably bedtime. Even if the time is shifted later, keep the routines the same: the order of operations, the number of books, the song you sing, etc. An expected bedtime routine helps kids to sleep, which helps vacation to go well, so this plan is to everyone’s advantage.

Rhythms and routines are important, but they don’t have to be the same ones all year. A month is a long time, and it’s possible to create new summer routines that would work better for your summer environs.

Depending on the age of your kids, you can enlist their help around creating these structures, which will also help them buy into anything that’s initially unfamiliar. You could have a particular way you start the mornings together, or a recurring discussion topic at dinner that could happen at a restaurant or picnic as well as anywhere else.

Shabbat can also help provide that routine (or another chosen moment of time if Shabbat isn’t the thing for your family). No matter where you are, you can commit to reconnecting with a prescribed ritual at a specific time. Ideally, for your question, this would also be something you typically do in your real life at home, but summers naturally do have their own rhythm, and perhaps this could be something you come back to in future summers.

Even more important than any of this, though, is consistency in other aspects of parenting and humaning. Your measured responses to daily occurrences, particularly stressful ones, will do more for maintaining balance and routine than any particular time-bound structure. If your child gets upset or you get stuck in traffic or if it rains, respond the way you’d want to whether you’re at home, on vacation or, truly, anywhere. Your level-headed consistency will be the best way to tie all the parts of your family’s life together.

Be well,

Miriam

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