Summer has arrived, and with it, a break in the routines and structures of the past school year. For children and teens with ADHD (and for their parents, too!), times of transition and changes can be difficult. Adjusting to new environments and people can be challenging, whether your children are enrolled in camp, working, or enjoying some downtime. In order to help them shift into summer mode more smoothly, here are some dos and don’ts for ensuring your child will have a restful, enjoyable, and productive summer.
5 Summer Dos
Limit screen time
With summer comes more unstructured time and kids and teens will jump at the chance to catch up on gaming or social media. Children with ADHD tend to have a tougher time with self-regulation. Help them by setting reasonable limits around screen time, with clear expectations around device usage. While you’ll have an easier time controlling screen time for younger kids, it becomes tougher for older kids, who may already have their own phone, gaming station and more unsupervised time. Collaborate with your tween or teen and come up with screen time limits and alternatives that will work best for your family.
There are countless benefits to spending time in the great outdoors. Spending time in nature provides exercise, stress-relief, and a wonderful opportunity to explore your surroundings. Encourage your child to join you on a swim, hike or bike ride, or see if your child is interested in trying an outdoor activity that’s new to them. Would they like to try canoeing? Or maybe camping? Even gardening, walking and berry picking are great outdoor activities while also being less physically demanding. Getting outdoors is a great way to move your body and to rest your mind.
Have regular wake-up and bedtimes
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean your child should sleep in every day. Even if they don’t need to get up for camp or a job, they should still have a regular wake-up time on weekdays to stay on a healthy schedule. The same applies for bedtimes. Your child should continue using their alarm clock and keep to the daily rhythms of family life, like set meal times and chores. Staying on a regular schedule will keep them productive during the summer and will make the transition back to school in the fall much smoother.
Set some goals
Ask your child or teen to come up with a few goals they’d like to work toward this summer, and support them in the pursuits. It can be something as simple as doing a summer reading program at the local library, learning a new song on their guitar, or delivering meals to an older relative. This is a good way to try something new, advance a skill they’re already working on, or being of service to others. Your child will feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose, which is so crucial for their self-esteem. Encourage your child to set achievable goals. Even if those goals aren’t met by the end of the summer, what’s most important is the work your child puts in along the way.
Spend time together
Summer is an ideal time to reconnect with your child, slow down and enjoy each other’s company. Think of some activities you both would enjoy and set aside time to pursue them. It could be a sport, a hobby, or just cooking some meals together. Can you turn Friday nights into family movie and pizza nights? Are there any activities or experiences you’ve been meaning to try? Time really does fly, especially in the hustle and bustle of family life. Make time for each other and nurture the beautiful connection between you and your child.
5 Summer Don’ts
It may be tempting to view the summer months as “catch-up time”, but it’s better to think of them as “rest up time”. Trying to squeeze in too many activities will likely lead to stress and overwhelm for you and your child. Aim to maintain some balance between work and play, with enough unstructured time for kicking back and taking things easy.
It may also be tempting to underschedule, but a lack of structure can be unsettling for kids with ADHD. Routines, commitments and chores all provide structure and predictability. For children and teens with ADHD, too few rules and routines may leave them feeling anxious or disengaged. Striking a balance between structured and unstructured time may be tricky, but it’s well worth the effort. Keep your kids accountable and responsible to keep to their summer routines and schedules, while giving them some time to rest, explore, and yes, even feel boredom for a while. There’s nothing better than a little boredom to motivate kids to get creative.
Don’t drop academics
Summer is a time to take a break from academic rigor, but don’t stop academic activities entirely, especially for kids and teens with ADHD. Academic momentum will help them maintain learning momentum and make it easier to readjust once school begins in the fall. The amount of summer learning depends on your child. Some kids will gladly take an online class or pick up a math workbook. For others, 20-30 minutes of daily reading will do. Whatever the right level of academics is for your child, set expectations and provide effective incentives to keep your child motivated in meeting their summer academic goals.
Don’t skip chores and responsibilities
Family life doesn’t take a summer break. Dishes, laundry, and cleaning all need to be done on a regular basis in order to maintain your household. Everyone in the family should pull their weight and help out. Assign age-appropriate tasks to your child and use reminders, todo lists and chore wheels to keep them accountable. When kids take care of their responsibilities around the house, they learn the value of contributing to family life and walk away with a strong sense of accomplishment.
Don’t wing it
Not everyone likes surprises, especially not those with ADHD. So, try to minimize any last-minute plans and decisions as much as possible. Plan ahead and get your child on board by making them a part of the planning process. They’ll be more cooperative if they know what to expect. Visual queues like calendars are a good way to map out summer schedules, vacations, and social occasions.
Summer is the time to slow down, reset and have fun. We all need a break and an opportunity to rest. But it’s still important to set clear guidelines and expectations for behavior and responsibilities. Talk with your child or teen with ADHD about summer plans and schedules, and give them the opportunity to weigh on decisions where appropriate. Then sit back, relax and enjoy all the pleasures that summer brings.