A Great Summer Vacation for Your ADHD Child

Parenting tips to help make summer vacation a happy one for your ADHD child and the whole family.

Parening Tips: Summer Fun for ADHD Children ADDitude Magazine

The way to manage summer's lack of structure is to strike the right balance between free time and planned time.

Peter Jaksa, Ph.D.
   
 

Summer Fun — with Perks

The most joyous warm-weather activities can be opportunities for learning and skill building. Consider:

  • GOOD GAMES. Board games and family fun are synonymous, and there's more time for them in the summer. Beyond sheer recreation, simple, low-tech games can help kids focus, deal with frustration, and learn rules. Some even promote attention and memory (try The Memory Game), organization and problem solving (think Clue), and strategic thinking (Chinese Checkers).
  • NICE READS. Make summer reading a happy pastime — even for the child who struggles — with turn-taking read-alouds, clever comic books, and word games like Scrabble (there's Scrabble Junior for younger kids) and Smart Mouth.
  • COOL COLLECTIONS. All kids love to collect things, and summer's a great time to start or further a nature collection. Think shells from the beach, pinecones from the woods, stones from the country lane. The benefits of being out in nature for kids with ADHD are well known, and collecting promotes organizational and mathematical thinking.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS. Ask your child which activities she likes best from gym class, and encourage her to keep them up while school's out. Even better, do them together. She'll burn off excess energy as she continues to hone motor skills.
 
   

Hooray for summer! School's out, the weather is warm, and your kids are ready to play. Summer camp may be in the picture, but what's most enticing is the freedom and luxury to do absolutely nothing — until you've done it for a while.

"Mom, I'm bored!" "Dad, there's nothing to do!" It's amazing how quickly the thrill of nothing to do can wear off, sometimes in a matter of days. That's when you realize how tricky the transition from academic routine and structure to the lazy days of summer can be.

When your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you can make two safe predictions about summertime: Your child is likely to get bored easily and often; and he's almost as likely to become demanding — of your time, attention, and patience. The way to manage summer's lack of structure is to strike the right balance between free time and planned time. Use these guidelines to light your way.

Keep a calendar (but leave some blank spaces)

Even during the languorous summer months, children need structure to feel secure and have a sense of what to expect. A simple calendar of events lets your child see what's coming. Fill in ahead of time a mix of major summer activities, such as the family vacation or trips to visit relatives, and casual recreational activities, such as a weekend trip to the zoo or museum. For your younger child, you may also want to prearrange and mark down playdates.

Of course, summer should still be a time to relax, so try not to overschedule. One planned event a weekend is great, three or four can feel rushed and hectic. Leave room for down time every day, when your child can do whatever he wants — even nothing at all. And make time at the end of the day for the family to relax, read, and talk.

Loosen the reins, but stay on course

The summer months cry out for flexibility. That being said, you don't want to relinquish basic family rules and routines. It's tempting to let kids stay up later in summer, and a bit of that is OK. But remember that even a little sleep deprivation can lead to irritability and meltdowns at any time of year.

Try to maintain basic bedtime habits. Stick to scheduled chores, too, as well as other established behaviors. A whole day in front of the TV should remain taboo even during summer months.

Use community resources

Take advantage of the summer recreational and educational opportunities that most towns offer. Find a youth sports league, or sign up for day camp. Many local rec centers offer swimming, gymnastics, even computer classes. Encourage your artistic child to join a children's theater group or sign up for community art or jewelry-making courses.

In addition, visit local zoos and museums, and find out where and when summer festivals are scheduled in your area. Don't forget to add selected activities to your calendar. When you plan ahead and write it down, you're more likely to do it.

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