Teens with ADHD

Reflections on My Daughter’s Last Summer at Home

I’m not ‘cool’ anymore. My 18-year-old would rather spend her summer with a lot of people beside me. Here’s how I’m keeping a grasp on our connection.

“Summertime is always the best of what might be” – Charles Bowden

Oh, summertime. The season we wait for with exuberant anticipation – long days, warm nights, dazzling sunsets.

As a child, I couldn’t comprehend why time ticked by so slowly while I waited for the best three months of the year, only to have it vanish like a falling star on a winter night. I tried to squeeze in a lifetime of memories  snapshot to hold onto during the looming school year ahead.

Now that I’m a mom, I hardly have time to reflect back on those quieter times, much less try to recreate that easier era for my kids. Life is busy. Schedules are conflicting. And ADHD is funny about long, unstructured days of togetherness. In the end, I’m left hoping for survival this summer rather than striving for dipped-in-sprinkles perfection.

When my child was younger, it was easy to plan activities and keep her engaged. I created the schedule and decided whether to stick to it  and if we veered off course, it wasn’t any big deal. It was a ton of fun just reading together and later re-enacting scenes from the book, swimming at the neighborhood pool, planning day-long excursions, and cooking dinner together.

Sounds perfect, right?

Those were the days when I had some control over my child’s day. She was dependent on me, enjoyed my company, and maybe actually wanted to spend time with me. But, what happens in a few short years when you’re not “cool” anymore your child would rather spend her time with friends?

How do you facilitate a fun summer break when your child still needs guidance but doesn’t necessarily want you around? Structuring summer was my biggest struggle as my daughter gained independence; here is how I faced the trials with her. The concept is simple; the trick is diligence.

Connection is Key

Connect daily on some level, whether your child realizes she needs it. Jess has a few friends and participated in some school groups that met over the summer. I had to find a way to fit into her already-busy calendar. This meant touching base via text messages and cell phone calls, sharing positive and uplifting thoughts even when they say they don’t need them. Sometimes I would text just to say, ” Hey, I loved watching you play guitar yesterday!”

Designate movie night each week and let your child decide what you will watch. You cherish those memories of reading to your child when she was younger; keep that tradition going by enjoying “books” via the movie version now. Talk about the plot, discuss the characters and scenes, debate whether the movie or the book was better. Eat pizza and popcorn. Relax and enjoy your child’s company.

Be active together. Is your child active in sports during the summer months? Does she love to rock climb or play Ultimate Frisbee? Could you join her for a fun run? Bike for diabetes? Weekly walks? An hour-long yoga or Zumba class together at the gym? We all know the benefits of a healthy active lifestyle and having a few set times scheduled throughout the summer is a great goal-setting and bonding activity.

Summer job? We weren’t there yet, although Jess did babysit for family friends weekly. Truthfully, my daughter’s anxiety kept her from successfully holding down a summer job. We looked for volunteer activities that related to her interests and benefit both the community and herself. Being a volunteer helped Jess in so many ways including increased self-esteem, reduced stress (research shows volunteering can reduce risky behavior such as substance abuse and smoking), and new skills to add to upcoming college applications.

In an effort to reduce my own stress and anxiety, I began learning meditation and how to use essential oils last summer. Before I knew it, Jess and I were watching instructional DVDs and creating aromatherapy candles together. We were connecting.

And thanks to this connection with Jess, I can honestly say I am looking forward to her last summer here at home before heading off to college in the fall, which I am sure, will bring a new set of challenges and joy. The glory days, is turns out, are right now.