Who doesn’t look forward to the end of the school year? Children with ADHD are no exception. It’s the end of homework, trying to stay still in their seats, and of getting in trouble for moving around, blurting out answers, or forgetting to hand in their work. Summer, however, often brings its own set of problems. Children with ADHD get bored quickly. Without the structure of school, impulsive behaviors can increase. They might be more prone to tantrums or defiance. Without the structure of school hyperactivity might be overwhelming.
With planning, structure and organization, you can help your children with ADHD have a fun, safe, and productive summer. The following tips can help.
Start the transition a few weeks before school lets out
Children with ADHD thrive on structure and routine and the first few weeks after school is over can be rough. You can plan for the transition by talking about the summer for several weeks before the last day of school. Discuss your expectations and your plans, including summer camps, vacations, or spending days at the local pool. Talk about what a typical summer day will be like.
Gather friends’ and classmates’ contact information
Summer is a great time for children to strengthen social skills without the extra stress of school. Write a list of your child’s school friends and reach out to get the phone number and email addresses of parents so you can coordinate social outings or invite friends over to your house. Try to plan for at least one social activity per week throughout the summer months.
Create a daily schedule for summer
As much as possible, mimic your child’s school day schedule to help provide consistency. Wake-up times, meal times, and bed times can be the anchor points of the day; fill in with household chores, family time, free time, and social activities. If your child will be attending a summer day camp, include when they will leave in the morning and what time they will return home. Having a daily schedule helps your child know what to expect each day.
Incorporate academic skill building each day
Talk to your child’s teacher before school is over to find out if there are specific areas where your child could use extra practice. Request materials, such as worksheets your child can complete over the summer. Ask for suggestions on some books that will help your child develop confidence and help improve their reading skills. Look for ways to make learning fun, such as websites, creating a summer journal, and going to the zoo or museums.
Many localities have different opportunities for children during the summer. Look into swimming lessons, summer camps at local parks, programs at public libraries, classes on art or music, and the chance to join athletic teams. Be sure to include activities that include exercise and fresh air, both of which help to reduce symptoms of ADHD.
Plan family time
It’s easy to just assume that you will spend time together as a family, but lives tend to become hectic. Instead of leaving it to chance, set aside one day a week to do something together as a family. You might head to the pool or the beach or stay home, have a barbeque, and play games together. You might want to create a summer bucket list, with each family member writing down one thing they want to do and working through the list throughout the summer. What you do doesn’t matter all that much; being together is what’s important.
Maintain a behavioral system
School might be out for the summer but that doesn’t mean your child can do whatever he wants. Choose one or two behavioral goals for the summer. For example: listening, following directions, or completing chores without prompts. Set up a chart to mark your child’s progress and provide rewards for accomplishments. Remember that rewards don’t need to be monetary or material items, but can be extra computer time. Try your best to ignore other behaviors in order to focus on areas you want to see improved.
Don’t forget your teens
Even though teenagers don’t seem like they need as much supervision and guidance as younger kids, they still need your attention and will still benefit from structure. A part-time job can help make them feel productive. If that option isn’t available, look for volunteer or community-service activities they can participate in throughout the summer. Even if your teen is busy with a job and friends, make sure to include him in family time and incorporate activities around his interests.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.