7 Ways to Survive The Summer With Your Kids

As a kid, I always looked forward to summer break. Not getting dressed all day. Swimming for hours. Playing with my Barbies whenever I wanted. Eating what I wanted, when I wanted. Yup, life was pretty good. Fast forward a couple of decades, and now I’m the parent of 4 kids who are also looking forward to summer break. Three of those kids are heavily relying on me to provide them entertainment, because times have changed. While I don’t recall asking my parents where we could go each day, my kids will.

With the Internet and Facebook “mom groups” making us feeling guilty about all the things we’re not doing, we now feel the need to keep our children busy most of the summer. But should we? Should we really be scheduling every minute of our children’s days? What about downtime? What about creative and imaginative play? How do you know when and where to draw the line?

I believe that the answer to all of these questions can be summed up in one word… balance. Yes, vacations are nice, afternoons at the pool are wonderful, indoor, rainy days can be fun, hours at the park are great, weeks at camp are exciting, playing sports is fabulous, and days at amusement parks are awesome, but you can’t do that stuff every day. And you really shouldn’t! Again, balance is the key! It’s about what your children want to do and what you think is best to do. So what CAN you do to survive those short few summer months that can feel like it never ends? Here are 7 things you can do!

1) Ask your kiddos what it is that they would like to do. Depending on how large your family is, you might ask them to each pick 1, 2, or 3 things. Older kids are going to “think big”, so you’ll likely need to set some ground rules, like cost, keeping it to a one-day trip, etc. These shouldn’t be big trips that they’re picking, as those would be up to you as a parent. You can give them some ideas of approved, fun items, like I mentioned above. If you can incorporate at least one thing per child, then they’re going to love that they got to have input!

2) Build in some “down time” in the schedule each week. We all need some time to relax and get out of the hot sun. If you see a rainy day coming up in the forecast, then use that day as your “indoor” day. I like to use my indoor days for not only relaxing, but also for picking up, cleaning, and de-cluttering. I also make sure my children are heavily involved in this process! We will usually work hard for a couple of hours and then we’ll relax, play a game, watch a movie, do some coloring, or they’ll just go off and play.

3) Going to the grocery store or other stores can actually be fun when you’re a kid. In the summer, I take either all or at least one kiddo with me to the grocery store each week. It’s a great way to have one-on-one time with each child (if you have a sitter for the other children)! We also do something fun, where someone gets to pick a new fruit, veggie, or other food that we’ve never tried before. It’s a great way to get your kiddos to try new things and get them involved in the process! Depending on the age of the child, I also let them help me with the checkout process, which can be fun for them. So try and make ordinary trips to the supermarket feel like more than just a boring trip to the store. You’ll get to make your kids happy you’re doing something different that day, AND you’ll be getting some much-needed shopping done. Win-win!

4) Plan a few bigger day (or half-day) trips and sprinkle them throughout the summer. There’s nothing worse than having a jam-packed few weeks and then nothing to do after that. If you can spread things out, you’ll find that the kids are complaining less and you’ll all have a few things to look forward to throughout the summer. Some of our favorites are amusement/water parks, zoos, aquariums, science centers/museums, “hands on” centers for smaller kids, beach (if you live close to one), or a lake.

5) Smaller activities are fun, and sometimes even free! These can include going to the local parks (these are great for meet ups with friends), getting a pool pass, and having play dates. If you have a few friends, you can each take turns hosting a play date at each of your houses, which can alleviate boredom without a cost. We also love to go see some not-so-new movies. Our local theaters will offer movie days for kids over the summer, where you can get admission, small popcorn, and a drink all for just $4! The kids love it and it doesn’t break the bank!

6) Camps, camps, and more camps! These are going to cost you a good chunk of change, but they can be worth it to have happy kids and happy parents! These days there are all sorts of camps available, from week long overnight ones, to full day ones, or half day ones. We’ve personally done them all over the years. Some were more popular than others, but they’re always fun. This year, we thought “outside of the box”, and my youngest kids are all taking a cooking camp this summer. I’m hoping they come home super energized to make me some yummy treats! And there are also theater, dance, and other creative camps, as well as sports camps.

7) Besides camps, many organizations are now offering their classes during the summer so that kids can stay on top of their game (so to speak). For example, I have my daughters signed up for a 5 week summer cheer program, as well as a 5 week gymnastics class. There are other summer sports like beach volleyball, swimming, and kickball going on throughout the summer, too. And a lot of Fall sports start in the summer, like football and cheerleading. Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean your kiddos need to stop all of their fun sports or creative classes. It can be a nice way to throw something fun and exciting into the mix!

 

So as you can see, there are tons of things you can do this summer to keep your children happy and entertained. When it comes to their routines, I would still try to keep their bedtimes and nap times (if applicable) on schedule whenever you can. Sleep must always be a priority, even in the summer. We wouldn’t skimp on feeding our kids some days, so we shouldn’t skimp on their getting good sleep either. They need an appropriate amount of sleep each night to stay healthy, think clearly, and play hard during the day. They’re also much more cranky if they don’t get the amount of sleep they need, so it’s in everyone’s best interests that they sleep well!


If your child is having trouble falling asleep, sleeping through the night, or taking good naps, I can help! Check out my Services page to see how! I can also help YOU sleep and feel better, too. With my adult packages, I work with adults to help them find the root cause of their sleep issues (provided it’s not because of your child), and give provide solutions they can use immediately. I am happy to offer free 15min phone assessments to talk about your family’s sleep issues. And I also have some wonderful courses over on my Learn site that can help with children’s sleep and also a parenting course to help you with your child’s behavior!

Getting Rid of Sleep Props

Getting rid of sleep props can be tough! If you don’t know what the term “sleep prop” is, let me explain. A sleep prop is anything your child uses in order to go to sleep. For instance, parents are often the biggest sleep prop there is! Many kiddos rely on their parent’s touch in some form or fashion in order to go to sleep. But the #1 sleep prop there is feeding-to-sleep. Almost all babies start out feeding-to-sleep at birth, as it’s quite natural. All is usually fine until the baby hits 4 months old and goes through what many refer to as the dreaded “4 month regression”. For other babies, it becomes an issue sometime in that first year, when parents realize that their baby should be able to sleep through the night yet they aren’t. That’s when they call me!

There are very few parents who don’t have sleep prop issues when we talk. Usually, if there are sleep props involved, there are sleep issues in general. Here are some more common sleep props…

  • feeding
  • holding
  • rocking
  • bouncing (either in arms or on an exercise ball)
  • pacifier (when used in order to get to the child to sleep or back to sleep)
  • co-sleeping (when you are only doing it out of necessity and not by desire)
  • using apparatuses such as a stroller, car seat, baby wrap/carrier, Rock-N-Play, Dock-A-Tot, swing

You’re probably looking at this list thinking about how you are currently using one or more of these things and wondering how the heck you’ll ever get your child to sleep if you stop. First of all, just know that it absolutely can be done! It can take a bit of time, persistence, and consistency, but it is well worth it in the end! Think about how nice it would be to have your evenings back to yourself to spend binge watching your favorite show, scrolling through social media, catching up with an old friend, having quality time with your spouse/partner, taking a bath, or even folding laundry (I know that’s not exciting, but it still needs to be done)! And then think about how you wouldn’t have to go to bed early because you’re afraid your child will be up multiple times that night. Or worse yet, you don’t go to bed early, your child does wake up several times, and now you’re a walking zombie the next day. Ugh!

But you can have those wonderful things I just talked about if you can manage to take away the “bad sleep props” and teach your child some new, independent sleep skills. You can also replace a few bad props for a couple good ones, if you aren’t already using them. Let me share examples of “good sleep props”…

  • lovey (any comfort item your child uses, such as a stuffed animal, doll, blanket, etc)
  • a worn shirt of the parent (can help older kids who might miss you)
  • white noise machine (I like these for all aged children, as it lessens background noise and adds a consistent soothing sound)
  • night light (only for older kids who have expressed being afraid of the dark)

While these things still help your child get to sleep, they don’t involve you! Adding these things are the easy part though. You still need to teach your child how to fall asleep without you or an apparatus, such as the Rock-N-Play. They should be falling asleep in their crib or bed for all sleep, as that’s the safest place to be. You also don’t want to have to transition them there later, since that can easily wake them up on the transfer or startle them later when they wake up and realize they’ve been moved. How shocking would it be to you to be moved after you fell asleep?!

How you actually get rid of those props is up to you. You can always choose to go “cold turkey” and just get rid of the prop (ex: pacifier, apparatus, holding, etc). Or you might decide to slowly wean the prop first, like with feeding-to-sleep or bouncing. You can also replace the prop of you with just your shirt or a new lovey. Of course, I realize that it’s all easier said than done. Your child’s not likely going to thank you for changing up their sleep routine and expecting new things from them. Nope, they’re more likely to protest these new changes, even if just a little bit. No one likes change, including children, so try to be understanding and supportive during the process.

And just so we’re clear, when you take away or change a sleep prop, you’re going to be doing sleep training (or sleep teaching). This is exactly what sleep training is… creating a new, sleep-prop-free world for your child! With that will come some resistance, so be ready for it! You need a good plan (and Plan B), a few nights to make these changes, patience, and consistency. If there’s one thing I know about kids, is that they’re often a step a head of us with this sort of stuff, which means you need to be 2 steps quicker!


*If you need help in developing that plan of action, you should check out my online courses for Newborns, Babies, and Toddlers/Preschoolers. These 2 week video courses can help you understand sleep, how to choose the sleep training method that’s best for your family, and then tell you exactly how to implement it! Or, if you’re too tired, overwhelmed, or lacking time to do a 2 week course, then check out my one-on-one sleep services for children. I will do all of the planning for you by developing a customized sleep plan, and then I will support you throughout the 2-3 week process while you get it done. If you have any questions about working together, feel free to set up a free 15min phone assessment.

Why You Should Avoid Giving Your Child Melatonin

Let me start by saying that I do not recommend giving children any type of melatonin or other sleep products; however, I do recognize that for some children (ie those with special needs or have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder) it might be medically necessary. If you’re currently giving (or have ever given) your child melatonin products to get them to sleep faster or longer, you definitely want to read this!

Firstly, melatonin is not FDA approved, and therefore it is not regulated. This means that manufacturers don’t have to list the overdose warnings like they do for prescription drugs. Companies in the US are allowed to market to parents with kid-friendly labels and say it’s “all natural”, but that’s very misleading to parents. Believe it or not, in almost all other first-world countries, you can only get melatonin if prescribed by a doctor! Just because the US has chosen to put this product in the vitamin supplement department of stores, it does not make it safe. And yes, it’s natural when it’s produced by our bodies, but it is not natural when it’s manufactured in a lab.

There are very few studies that have been done on melatonin (again, it’s not FDA approved), and those that have been done show that long-term use can affect the body’s natural production of it. Taking too much of it can sabotage sleep and actually cause insomnia! For children specifically, it can affect puberty, disrupt menstrual cycles, and impede normal hormone development. It’s also important to note that it does not keep your child asleep throughout the night! It’s used to help bring on sleep, but again it will not keep them asleep all night. So if you’re using it because of night wakings, you can stop or wean now.

Now, all this being said, I think there could be cases where melatonin use is needed at least on occasion (again, special needs, sleep disorders, flying across time zones, etc). Before even considering it though, you really want to make sure that you’ve taken care of all of the possible behavioral and sleep hygiene issues, and ensure that your child’s routine is solid. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Turn off all electronics 30-60mins before bedtime. The blue light coming from TVs, tablets, laptops, phones, gaming systems, etc can suppress the body’s natural release of melatonin. You can have quiet, relaxing play the hour or two before bed so that your child isn’t “worked up” right before you start your routine.
  • Having a consistent nightly routine is a great way to cue your child’s mind and body that sleep is near.
  • You should also take a close look at your child’s diet. You might be giving sugary snacks before bed that can affect how hyper your child is before bed. Sugary snacks include fresh fruit too, as it has natural sugar it. Also, keep in mind that milk has sugar in it and can give your child a boost of energy when you need for them to calm down. Crackers, grains, raw veggies, and cheese are good bedtime snacks.
  • Ensure that the bedtime is correct, as well as the daytime schedule. I would hate to see you feel the need to give your child melatonin, only to find out that they just weren’t tired enough or they were overly tired.
  • Many children with autism and ADHD also have sleep issues, which can leave parents desperate for sleep relief for both their children and themselves. Because of this, some parents will turn to giving their child melatonin supplements. I started this document by saying I don’t believe parents should give this to their children, except when medically necessary. Having a child diagnosed with autism or ADHD is one of those medical exceptions. But even though you feel that it might be necessary, I would ask you to consider doing 4 things first before ever giving your child melatonin:
    1. Look at possible vitamin deficiencies, as many of these children are lacking Vitamin D and magnesium, both of which can affect sleep. Your child’s pediatrician can order a vitamin deficiency blood test to determine what your child might need more of. Then they will be able to tell you what dosage to give your child of the deficient vitamin (if there is one), based on the results.
    2. Recognize that even with all of the behavioral, routine, environmental, and dietary changes that your child may just need a little less sleep than the typical child. You might find that your 4yr old only needs 9hrs of sleep overnight to feel well-rested, and that’s ok. The key is that they are well-rested. If they wake up on their own, are energized, and they can easily make it through the day without a nap or major meltdowns, then your child is likely getting enough sleep. Remember, everyone’s sleep needs are different.
    3. Are you sure the bedtime shenanigans aren’t just because your child wants to push the boundaries? Are they truly not tired, or are they fooling around because they know that it gets your attention? Oftentimes, it’s a behavioral issue that needs to be dealt with (like through gentle sleep training) and not that the child actually needs less sleep. And again, if they’re waking at night, melatonin is not going to help unless you re-dose them. So be sure to rule out behavioral factors that a sleep training consult/course/book and a parenting book/course couldn’t fix.
    4. Lastly, please check with your doctor before giving your child melatonin. I realize it’s an over-the-counter drug, but you already read what my thoughts are on the possible issues and side effects of giving it. And even if your doctor approves it for your child, I highly suggest you both start out at a super low dosage (ex: 1mg) and only give it for the shortest amount of time as possible.

I know it’s hard to deal with a child who is constantly battling you at bedtime and possibly waking throughout the night, but giving this medication is not the way to deal with it. It is beyond rewarding when you can work with your child and get them to willingly go to bed and stay there until morning because they want to. It is possible! If you need with the behavioral end of things, you can check out my one-on-one child sleep packages or my online sleep courses. You can always Contact me if you’re unsure what you need or have any questions. And don’t forget, I also teach parenting courses, so we can get your child following directions both at bedtime and throughout the day!

*Article Resources with study links: Health Ambition, Baby Sleep Science, Van Winkle’s, Baby Sleep Study, Find a Top Doc

Sleep Like A Boss

As 2017 comes to a close, many of us are thinking about our goals in 2018. We’re wondering what new products or services we might launch, should we increase our prices, what promotions will we run, what does our marketing campaign look like, what’s our ad budget, will we be able to get more clients or sell more products, should we hire more people, etc. All of these things are definitely important, but what about the “HOW”?

How are you going to get all of these things done? Yes, you might have personnel to help with it, or maybe you’re a single entrepreneur doing it all on your own. It really doesn’t matter, if you’re not taking care of yourself. If you’re not sleeping well, then I guarantee you that you’re not making the decisions possible. If you’re sleep deprived, you’re not likely eating well, exercising enough, and generally taking good care of yourself.

Stress is such an important factor in how well we sleep. And for business owners or bosses, I would say it’s probably the #1 factor! Everywhere I turn these days, I see stressed out people. I work a lot with parents who are stressed because they have children, careers, households, etc. I also see a lot of professionals who are feeling overwhelmed with business, family, and life in general. If you can work on the amount of stress you have, you’ll sleep better and feel better.

When people hire me to help them with their sleep, I look at all facets of their lives, because not sleeping well is usually a symptom of other things going on. Again, it’s a matter of working on the underlying issues so that you can sleep better. For instance, if you are stressed out with planning the upcoming year’s goals, then figure out things you can to help relieve that stress. Perhaps, outsourcing your marketing or hiring a new employee should be on your 2018 list.

Leave work at work, whenever possible. If you go to an office every day, then when you leave there make that the last work-related thing you do until the next morning. If you work from home, then have designated work hours, where you can “be out of the office” after a certain time. You owe it to yourself and your family to be present with them when the work day is over. I realize that many people like to work into the wee hours of the night, but think about what you’re really accomplishing at midnight? Sorry, but not to many great ideas happen at 1:30 am. Your body needs to rest and your brain has a lot of work to do!

Many people have the belief that sleep is a waste of time or that it’s only for the weak, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Your brain is hard at work while your body is resting. It’s removing toxins, making internal repairs, transferring short-term memories into long-term ones (those mornings where you wake up remembering something important you’d forgotten are because of this), and it’s regulating hunger hormones. When we get 7.5 – 8.5 hours of sleep each night that our bodies need, we wake up feeling refreshed and mentally/physically ready for the day. You will have more energy to get your tasks done, than if you would have stayed up later before bed. I know personally, I can get way more done in 3 daytime hours vs 3 nighttime ones!

I encourage you to make 2018 the year you “sleep like a boss”, because successful people sleep well! If you’d like to learn about more things that can affect your sleep and what you can do to help improve it, please check out my 5 free tips report. You can also visit my Adult Sleep Services page to learn more about my one-on-one sleep services. And, if your company has a health and wellness program, and you would like me to come in to do a presentation for the staff, I am booking now for 2018. I would spend an hour teaching them specific ways they can help sleep and feel better. Happy, well-rested people make for more productive, energetic employees! You can click the Contact button for further information or to book your company.