As we head into the last weeks of summer and for some, the early return to school, it’s worth taking some time to savor the great outdoors. Spending time in nature is beneficial and fun for all of us: we can kick off our shoes and wade into the ocean, hike to a beautiful vista or just have a picnic in our own backyards. It’s especially great for kids with ADHD. When any of us venture outside to a beach, park or any green spot, our entire demeanor shifts. We shed some of the stress of our daily lives, feel more relaxed and connect with the atmosphere around us. Children, teens and adults start to feel a welcome sense of spaciousness and freedom. For kids with ADHD, this freedom is often sorely needed.
Children and teens with ADHD need a chance to let go from the pressures of all things that they struggle to remember to do and from not feeling good enough at doing them. They spend so much time trying to focus, stay organized and correct their mistakes that a break from these pressures is a welcome relief. On a family excursion outdoors, they can just be in the moment. They can enjoy the diversity of outside activities and explore the many facets of the natural environment. They may be happy just to be in a different physical space and do nothing at all. These experiences in nature can be very restorative for them and for you as parents too. They also provide ideal times for family fun as the ‘shoulds’ of our daily routines are transformed into games, explorations and discoveries.
Here are some tips to having a successful summer family outings with ADHD kids or teens:
1. Pick a location that offers something for everyone and doesn’t require much planning. Talk with your family about the experience and what people want to do so you can all collaborate on making a good experience for everyone.
2. Limit your expectations. Whatever happens has to be okay with you and okay with your child. Share your hope for the day and listen to theirs.
3. Give your teen or child a few specific, simple tasks to do in preparation that are written down and can be checked off. This gives them more practice in developing those ever-needed executive planning and organizing skills.
4. Create some guidelines about appropriate behaviors for the excursion (not more than 3 because the kids won’t likely remember them). These should revolve around safety primarily and be logical and explicit (e.g. no swimming alone or without permission, no hiking away from the group, no wandering off from the picnic area). Remind your child or teen of these 3 guidelines as you arrive at the location.
5. Focus on the positive. There will likely be a blip or two. Something may happen that will frustrate you or your child. Take a deep breath, focus on what’s most important and help him/her recalibrate. You could both try paying attention to something appealing in the nature around you to help you move on.
Enjoy your adventures!
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