Most parents of ADHD children wonder, "What am I going to do with my child this summer?" You may be apprehensive about the loss of structure that the school year provides. You may be dreading a repeat of previous summers when your child was either restless and bored or zoned out in front of the TV. Instead of dreading summer, use these ideas for making this the greatest summer ever for your child!
Set One Behavior Change Goal for the Summer
Now is the time to assess your child's strengths and needs. What positive steps has your child taken during the school year? Make a list and share it with your child. Now, think about what areas she needs to make progress in - chores? relationships with peers? self-confidence? anger control? completing tasks? politeness? Discuss the needed changes with your child in the context of the positive progress she has made. Decide together on one specific goal she would like to focus on this summer. Help her see the benefits of learning a new coping skill and reassure her that you will be there to encourage and support her.
Explore Your Options
Look into what is available for your child in your community this summer. Does the local university provide summer enrichment programs for children? What is offered by the community center, churches, Boys and Girls Club? Investigate private lessons in dance, martial arts, art, gymnastics, computers. Many studios offer short summer programs that are perfect for the ADHD child to get a chance to try a new activity without making a major commitment. Make phone calls or visits, pick up brochures to show your child to get him excited about trying something new and fun.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Get out your calendar and mark off all the activities that are already scheduled - family vacations, camp, swimming lessons, baseball games, holidays. Sit down with your spouse first and brainstorm what special activities you want to plan, what you can afford to spend on lessons, camp, vacations, babysitters, etc. Together think of a few special things to do and go ahead and put them on the calendar. Now, get the calendar and brochures and sit down with your child to plan your summer. Let him make some choices about what he will do during the summer, but make sure he chooses something. If you would like for him to take a class, for example, offer him a choice of classes that fit into the family's schedule with the understanding that he must choose at least one.
Structure Your Days and Weeks
This is the key to managing the ADHD child and helping her develop self-discipline. Decide what your family's general daily routine will be with set bedtimes, TV times, outdoor times, mealtimes, quiet times, whatever works for you. If set routines are not your style, I urge you to give them a try. Maintaining structure and routines during the summer can make a big difference in your child's behavior and your sanity.
Use the summer months as an opportunity to help your child build friendships. Having just one good friend helps her feel more confident and connected. Let her have a friend over several times a week if possible. Offer to pick up the friend, help her plan something to do with the friend - bicycle riding, skating, movie, malling, eating out, cooking in, whatever they like. It's a good idea for parents to supervise the ADD child and her friends closely to head off impulsiveness and arguments. Talk with your child before the friend comes over about specific ways she can be a good hostess. She will really appreciate your guidance in developing her social skills.
Make Time for Yourself
You must take care of yourself and your marriage if you are to have the resources for coping with the constant demands and stress of parenting your ADHD child. Make it a family rule that when Mom or Dad comes home from work they get at least 30 minutes to unwind. Let the children play outside for an hour. Require that chores be completed before 5:00 p.m. or implement consequences (after your quiet time!). Each parent take the children out one evening every week giving the other parent a chance to relax with the house all to themselves. Be sure to set aside one evening each week for you and your spouse to go out together without the children or for the children to go elsewhere while you two stay at home alone.