Navigating the Summer for Children Needing Structure


Summer is a time of freedom, relaxation, and rejuvenation. For some of our children, the shift from a well-structured school day to the unstructured nature of a relaxed lazy summer day at home can bring on anxiety and stress. As you prepare for summer, here are some tips and ideas to add some structure to your long relaxing days.


Create A Family Calendar

Creating a family calendar will not only keep you organized, but will allow your family to know what to expect each day. Think of first adding in the daily monotonous tasks like chores and naps, and then add the fun activities. Display the calendar in a place where everyone can see it. Giving your child the freedom to choose activities in their week will allow them to feel as though they have some control over the days to come. This will help to lessen their anxiety and give them a sense of understanding what the expectations of the day are. Having a family calendar with input from everyone will also allow you to minimize the battles you may face when it comes to choosing an activity.


Taking the calendar idea a little further, you can create a chart for daily tasks that you would like your child to complete. For instance, use pictures of items to signify each task that the child usually completes. Use a picture of a toothbrush to symbolize brushing their teeth, a shirt to symbolize getting dressed, and a bed to symbolize making their bed. Even if the child typically completes these tasks each day during the school year, they may benefit from having a visual of structured activities when they first wake up in the morning and what they are expected to accomplish.



Create A Meal Plan

Creating a meal plan will allow your child to visualize what they will be eating for their meals each day. Get the children involved! Let your child help you look through cookbooks, make a shopping list, and help you prepare the meals. If this seems overwhelming to give your child that much freedom, you can come up with a pre-made meal plan and allow your child to choose the days for each meal. You can post the meal plan in the kitchen where it will be easily seen by all members of the family. We all know that when there is a less structured environment, meal schedules and healthy eating are the first things to go. Having a structured meal plan with snack options listed will give your child options of pre-approved snacks. This way you are not having to spend so much time in the kitchen trying to come up with quick snacks to feed a disregulated child.



Join a Summer Camp

If you do not have the opportunity to stay home with your children during the summer, joining a summer camp is a great way to add structure to your child’s summer schedule. Most summer camps offer a relatively routine and structured schedule. There are loads of community opportunities and church activities that offer low cost summer camps. Joining a summer camp will allow your child to have some structure to their day without the pressure of receiving a grade. Most camps are based on completing a special project or playing games and are not based on merit or grades.  Keep an eye out for next week’s blog that will describe summer camp ideas in more detail!


Create An Activity Jar

Not a fan of the calendar idea and desire a little less structure? Create an activity jar for whenever your child may tell you that they are bored or if they begin to act out from a lack of routine or structure. In an age where it is so easy to hand a screen to your child in that moment, it is important to create opportunities for a child to build their own structure in play. To make an activity jar, take an empty jar and fill it with slips of paper with approved activities on each slip. For example, you can mix easy chores, short exercises, or fun activities on each slip of paper. Make sure you have all the items needed to complete each task. Allow your child to choose a few slips of paper and pick their favorite one. This will allow space for your children to learn to express creativity, problem solve, and use their imaginations to complete the tasks.

Sasha’s Thoughts: The Perfect Medicine – Идеальное лекарство

So, I have been sick for three days this week. It is a fact of life that one must suffer sickness once in a while. This experience reminds me of the countless times my mama took me under her wing and nursed me back to health. There was one especially difficult time when I had the flu for almost 6 months. I was not exactly the healthiest child. As those of you might understand, children especially from the Former Soviet Union have very weak immune systems and struggled to regain the level of health that their American peers had. I was no exception. I remember getting Cactus Cooler and a really cute pink Barbie telephone toy that I used to call my mom for help with. It was so nice to know mama was only a few steps away from me at all times. Today, I am grateful for all the effort she took to keep me healthy.

So as I prepare to return to Russia in two weeks I prepare in my mind a list of all the advises mama gave to me over the years.

  1. Get some sleep even when you don’t want to!
  2. Drink fluids!
  3. Cuddle up with your favorite blankie or stuffed animal! On a side note it is never too childish to have a favorite blankie!
  4. Have a Cactus Cooler o1r a Coke for an upset stomach!
  5. And something that might be a little bit strange but Russians believe in COLD showers to help clear the cobwebs! It works!
  6. Tea with Lemon will then warm you right back up.

All in all, I know I have the best mother in the world. She fed me soup, read me stories about the Three Billy Goats Gruff to cheer me up and always had a warm hug for me when I needed it. It does make a difference to an orphan to have just one person to love them and give them sweet memories.

Thankfully yours

Sasha’s Thoughts: Family – Семья

Family is such a strong theme in today’s society. Has been for centuries. I for one do not wholeheartedly agree with the statement that Family are the people that gave birth to you. In reality, it is the people who have been there for you through thick and thin, pain and joy, success and failure. Nothing in this world can compare to the feeling of sharing your life with the people you care most about.

Let me tell you a little bit the word adopted in reference to families. It means to take into one’s family through legal means and raise as one’s own child. What a wonderful word! Yet, there is a negative connotation associated with adoptees like you and me. Throughout the ages, if one was not biologically related or partially biological there was no room in the home for them. Think of Cinderella. When the evil stepmother came into the picture, Cinderella was out. What a shame. The larger shame is that this stigma is still a very real concern for thousands upon thousands of orphans left in Russia as well as the rest of the world.

I want to tell you a different story about adoption. The story of two people who were so in love with God that they decided to take FIVE little Russian kids into their home out of the kindness of their hearts! So perhaps you can call me the trash and left overs of the people that gave birth to me, it is true, but the bigger brighter truth is that I was a gift from God to the couple I now call Pa and Ma. And they are my Family!

Humbly yours

Sasha’s Thoughts: The Beach – На пляже!

What a beautiful day! I cannot imagine living in a more beautiful place than the South Bay, California for the past 16 years. As I was sitting at the beach today, soaking in sunshine and ocean mist, I noticed these little kids next to me. They were with their mothers having a grand old time! I recalled a story from my past. My family (Pa, Ma and three little kids!) used to go to Virginia every year for a few weeks in the summer. Our relatives had a small property on the lake over there so each time we came the lake was the number 1 place to go! I remember the first time as clear as if it were yesterday. We were little pipsqueaks: 5, 10 and 13. Our grandpa took us out on a BIG boat. My aunt cooked hamburgers (probably 1st time eating one!) And we got presents: a little beach towel rolled into a tote filled with t-shirts, water toys and a big sun with sunglasses on everything! What sweet memories…

As I sat on the beach, I could not help but smile at the little kids with their little sand buckets making castles and chasing birds. This same smile floats across my face as I remember a similar beach with little Russian kids running around in the sand playing tag and swimming in the water. The funny thing is, I still feel like that little girl inside sometimes…

As I sat mesmerized by the scene that unfolded in front of my eyes the warmth of the breeze lulled me to sleep with the thought of how sweet it is to share this earth with family no matter who they are or where they are. So to bring to this story a small thought, next time you or your “adopted” family are at odds, remember how sweet it is to have a family to go to the beach with and spend hours together because at one point, me and/or you have been without family and that is a very sad and lonely place to be indeed.

Cheerfully yours,