With school on break and maybe a trip or two planned this summer, it’s tempting to let your child go to bed later than usual and plan their days as they go. But changes in routine can be disruptive for most kids, and especially disruptive for kids with ADHD. Finding a way to maintain a regular schedule and implement some structure into your days can help your child feel more stable and prevent chaos in your home.
Benefits of a Summer Schedule for Kids
While summer presents the perfect opportunity for kids to recharge after a busy school year, it doesn’t have to be an unproductive free-for-all. In fact, planning a summer schedule for your kids can be highly beneficial in supporting their mood and motivation. It provides kids with a sense of security, which is crucial to social-emotional development.
According to Larry Silver, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical Center in Washington, D.C., sticking to a summer schedule also helps you avoid power struggles with your child. He tells ADDITUDE, “[O]nce you start negotiating with your child, you begin a tug-of-war that you will inevitably lose.”1 Even if your child presents a Powerpoint presentation of why they should run amok all summer, resist the urge to let them sleep in or stay up late or spend all day on their tablet; by sticking to a summer schedule, you can expect to have a calmer kid at home and an easier transition into the next school year.
But keeping a summer schedule doesn’t mean giving up play time. In fact, play is another important aspect for your child’s development. Studies have found that, neurologically, play can stimulate the “fight or flight” response without triggering the stress hormone cortisol, which is a useful way to practice difficult situations.2 Play has also been shown to help build executive function skills, support creative thinking, and assist emotional regulation.
How to Implement a Successful Schedule
If it was up to your child, they might spend the whole summer playing video games or binging their favorite T.V. shows. While it is recommended to give them some freedom to choose activities they enjoy, setting up the day in structured blocks will help them transition easily from one activity to the next, allowing them to relish in the freedom of summer while still helping them organize their time wisely.
After their daily morning routine, these blocks might include such activities as exercise, reading, learning games, day camp, sports, art, and family activities. You don’t have to cut out video games or other screens, but it would be wise to plan screen time to ensure they don’t spend too much time on a device and that they don’t ruin their sleep.
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Ideal Summer Schedule for Children with ADHD Example
Your child’s summer schedule should reflect their specific temperament or interests, but the following brief example may give you an idea of how you start thinking about structuring your own summer.
1. Have a set wake-up time and follow a morning routine
Aim to have your child wake up at the same time each morning and go to bed at the same time and keep mornings productive with a predictable routine they’ll follow in incremental steps: brush teeth, brush hair, get dressed, have breakfast etc. You can even use a visual checklist to keep them on task. This will also come in handy when it’s time to start school again in the fall.
2. Set an intention or meditate
Setting an intention can help guide your child’s day and keep them focused on their summer goals (more on that later). A morning meditation can also help them start the day off calmly, even if they sit quietly for just five minutes.
3. Make time for indoor and outdoor play
If your child is signed up for a summer or day camp, they will likely have structured indoor and outdoor play. If they’re at home, try to encourage them to spend time doing physical play (ideally outdoors), in addition to indoor activities. And while they may want to spend all their time on devices, it’s important that the indoor play includes imaginative activities like arts and crafts, classic board games, or other off-screen options.
4. Spend time working on a special skill or project
Encourage your child to have a summer goal like building something at home, learning a musical instrument, or maybe just making it through a book they’ve never read before. This will keep them focused and motivated throughout the summer and give them something to feel proud about at the end of the summer.
5. Connect over meals
Mealtimes should be consistent and seen as a good opportunity to connect with each other. Try to keep your dining table as a screen-free zone to minimize distractions and support discussion.
6. Have a relaxing bedtime routine
Power down screens and encourage your child to practice a relaxing bedtime routine to ease them into sleep. Like wake-up times, bedtime should be at a set time each day.
How to Make a Summer Schedule for Your Kids: Start the Night Before
To keep mornings running smoothly, prepare for the day the night before. This might mean bathing at night instead of in the morning, laying out clothes, jotting down a to-do list for the following day, and setting an alarm to ensure your child wakes up at a set time each morning.
Structure the Morning
Reduce stress with daily routines, especially in the morning. The morning sets the tone for the day, so if it starts off chaotic, chances are the day could feel stressful and unproductive. While it may be tempting to let your child sleep in during the summer, doing so might wreak havoc on their circadian rhythm, or their body’s internal clock. According to sleep experts, a regular schedule not only increases the amount of sleep children get each night, but it can also improve the quality of their sleep, which is important for kids with ADHD who often struggle with sleep issues.3, 4, Lack of sleep can exacerbate symptoms of ADHD, making it harder to focus, bringing their mood down, and negatively affecting their memory. In addition to following a set wake-up time, you should aim to have your child eat breakfast at the same time each day; studies suggest that a routine eating time also supports the body's internal clock and maintains a healthy digestive system.5 By sticking to a routine, you’re helping your child’s morning remain predictable and calm, setting the precedent for a productive day.
Reinforce Summer Camps or Activities During the Day
Your child with ADHD may need some extra help choosing a summer camp or activity to suit their personality. Even if they’re gung-ho about signing up, fears may come up at the last minute and your child might change their mind when it’s time to get ready and go. Parents should reinforce their child’s summer schedule by easing their fears. One idea is to call up the camp director or another adult in charge of planned summer activities and arrange accommodations to help your child feel more comfortable (such as being allowed to call home if needed or being able to bring fidget toys with them).
Try Homeopathic Medication Like Brillia
Summer is the perfect time to try Brillia because you can watch first-hand how it works for your child without worrying about how the new regimen will affect their school schedule. You can also spend time implementing the 5 pillars, which includes proper nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen time, and mindfulness. This can be especially helpful if you’ve been considering tapering off prescription drugs during the summer for a “drug holiday”, because Brillia is a suitable alternative and can be added to their regimen whether they are on or off medication because it does not have contradictions.
Trying Brillia during the summer also lets the product build up in the system in time for the start of the school year. As a gentle and cumulative product, Brillia takes about three to four weeks for the active ingredient to effectively build up in the system. We ask users to be patient and consistent with the regimen before assessing results.
Make Dinner a Consistent Time
Similar to breakfast, dinner should be held at the same time each day to keep your child’s circadian rhythm intact and keep evenings chaos-free. Since children with ADHD have trouble switching from one activity to the next, having set meal times can help prepare them for the transition because they know what to expect each day. If your child is hyperactive, consider planning a physical activity for them before dinner so they get all their wiggles out before settling in to eat.
Implementing a relaxing bedtime routine into your child’s evening helps them calm down and sleep sounder, getting the rest they need to be productive the following day. And while some facets of the routine should be obvious, such as brushing their teeth, consider adding in some other enjoyable activities to help them wind down. This may include some gentle yoga, breathing exercises, or listening to relaxing music. Be sure your child powers down devices an hour before bedtime and keeps tablets and computers out of the room to help them stay asleep.
Find more resources on raising a child with ADHD at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center and how non-prescription Brillia can help improve symptoms of ADHD without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects.
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