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By: Tammy Sassoon, M.s.ed

“The best way to keep our children in check over the summer (or any time) with regard to rules, is to follow the rules ourselves.”

Dear Apprehensive,

Enjoying a relaxed atmosphere combined with rules and routines is certainly the way to go with your family in the summer. Let us first define what a healthy, relaxed, and enjoyable atmosphere looks like. Some people think that relaxed means being free to indulge in all of our wishes. That couldn’t be further from the truth, because rules and guidelines are actually designed to safeguard us and allow maximal growth as human beings (which ultimately brings the most happiness). 

Now that we know what an unhealthy relaxed atmosphere looks like, how can we clearly define a healthy one? A healthy relaxed environment is one where people feel comfortable, are celebrated for who they are, and happiness is felt in the air. In order to give this to our children, we have to bring ourselves to a place where we truly celebrate every child exactly as they are. This does not mean we celebrate every behavior. We want to send a message that we embrace our children with an open heart and show them that we choose happiness in our day to day lives. This doesn’t mean that we will always be in a great mood, but it does mean that when we are not in a great mood, we are aware that it is just a mood, and know that it will pass, and bring us back to our true natural state of happiness.

Now for the rules and routine part. You are right in giving that much importance. I reiterate the rules are designed to protect us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We can all imagine what a house, city, or government without rules would look like. The best way to keep our children in check over the summer (or any time) with regard to rules is to follow the rules ourselves. If we value children going to sleep at a healthy bedtime, are we showing them that we have created a healthy bedtime for ourselves? If you want your children to see that it is important to be nice to their friends in camp, let them see you going out of your way to call someone less socially privileged than you to chat and make her feel important. Children copy what they see. When we notice our children behaving in certain undesirable ways, we need to examine our own behaviors and see if they have been learning these things from us.
If they have, there is no need to worry because we have the gift of free will in every moment. That means that we can decide to change whatever we have been poorly modeling at any moment in time. It’s actually very nice for children to watch their parents act in a humble way, and say, “I am trying my best to do things differently from now on.” It models to children how to admit mistakes and move on. I hope that this was helpful, and I am sure that you will create an excellent balance of fun and rules for your children this summer. Lots of luck!


Dear Tammy,

As the summer is approaching,
I am nervous about how to go about having a fun, relaxed atmosphere with my children, while balancing the need for following rules and routines. My kids are between the ages of 9 and 17, and they look forward to “chilling out” in the summer, as most children do.
Do you have any good ideas?


A Bit Apprehensive

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