Without the predictable schedule of the school day, summer can be a stressful time for parents and kids who rely on structure and routine to stay productive. Signing up for summer camps, sports, and other activities can help provide some structure and stimulation, but without a plan at home, it’s easy for your days to fall into disarray.
Find out how to create the perfect summer schedule for your child at home with six simple steps.
How Structure Helps Kids with ADHD
All kids thrive with a sense of routine and stability at home, but for kids with ADHD, structure is especially important. Disruptions to even the most basic tasks like eating breakfast and going to bed could exacerbate symptoms like restlessness, irritability, and hyperactivity. So while it may be tempting to let your child sleep in and have meals when they want, having set wake-up times, meal times, and bedtimes are crucial for keeping their symptoms under control.
And if your child is following a certain ADHD treatment plan, whether that includes taking prescription medication, homeopathic medication like Brillia, or supplements, it’s important to maintain their routine throughout the summer, unless your doctor has suggested a “drug holiday” from prescription medication.1
Whether or not you have already made plans for summer vacation, kids camps, or other activities during the break, the following six steps will help you create the perfect summer schedule for your child. From setting summer goals to making room for family fun, here are some starting points for a productive upcoming break.
1. Set Summer Goals
Setting an achievable summer goal is a great way to motivate your child and keep them engaged. This can even be turned into a family activity so your child feels supported. Be sure that you prioritize positive goals over negative ones; so if your child’s goal is to “Stop using their tablet so much,” you might adjust the goal to be “Cut screen time in half” or “Only use screen time on weekends.” Even better, encourage them to participate in another activity that would replace screen time, making their goal something like “Learn how to play the guitar” or “Learn how to bake.”
Once they set their summer goal, help them work toward achieving it by breaking it down into incremental tasks. If their goal was “Play the guitar,” help them set up a routine of practicing once a day for a certain amount of time. Chart their progress by marking a calendar so they can visually see their efforts at work. After all, kids with ADHD have a harder time planning and organizing, especially when it comes to a big goal with many steps. Helping them visualize the path to their goal demystifies how they’ll get there.
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2. Try New Activities that Spark Creativity
Studies show people with ADHD selectively engage and excel in creative domains that fit their skills and preferences.2 Use summer to explore creative outlets, and chances are your child will feel thrive when they find the one they’re most passionate about.
Signing up for music or dance lessons, loading up on art supplies, and trying at-home STEM projects and experiments can all spark your child’s creativity and give them a sense of accomplishment as they make progress. Explore other ways to harness the gifts of children with attention disorders and get more ideas for art activities kids enjoy as much as TV.
3. Make Note of at Least One Success a Day
While a big payoff at the end of summer can no doubt be rewarding for the child who has set a goal for themselves, delayed gratification is hard for a kid with ADHD. That’s why the incremental steps we mentioned above are important when attempting something new, but so is letting your kid thrive in an area he or she already excels at.
Make sure your child gets to participate in one activity they love every day in the summer. This might be as simple as building the ultimate Lego fortress or making it to the top of the hill on their bike. Accomplishing a task they are already good at, and enjoy doing, is an easy way for your child to feel like they’re day has been a success no matter what other obstacles they may have encountered.
4. Give Your Child a Say in Their Summer Days
Much of the school year is dictated by other people: making it to class before the bell rings, sitting quietly when all they want to do is play with friends, studying for the upcoming Math test, and more. While it may be the parent’s job to enforce a schedule at home, let your child participate in what the schedule should be. This might include allotting a chunk of the day as “free time” where they can do whatever they want, whether that’s reading comic books or playing Roblox.
This doesn’t mean you should allow your child to spend all day on their iPad or tear the house apart. But it does mean they should feel empowered to voice their desires on how they spend their time after all the hard work they put into the school year.
5. Use Technology for Entertainment
Screen time gets a bad rap, and for good reason. Excessive screen time has been associated with impaired social skills, low confidence, poor sleep, and increased hyperactivity. However, technology can be useful when used sparingly in the right way.
There are numerous educational games and puzzles to keep your child entertained online. According to Teodora Pavkovic, a nationally recognized psychologist and digital wellness expert, children with ADHD appear to benefit from shorter periods of screen-based activities (as opposed to passive screen time) more frequently. She says 40-minute chunks five days a week is actually better than two-hour chunks just twice a week.3 However, she does encourage families to tweak screen time to find a solution that delivers the best behavioral outcome for their own child and then stick to it consistently.
6. Create Time for Family Fun
While you might still have to work during your child’s summer break, it’s important that you create time for family fun and togetherness. According to Ann Cathcart, founder of the Learning Camp, in Vail, Colorado, making “family fun” part of the regular schedule tells your child that they’re so important to you that you want to schedule time just to be with them.4 This can be huge for their self-esteem. After all, a study from 2013 found that adolescents with ADHD have lower self-esteem than kids without ADHD. Family fun can be as simple as playing a game or watching a movie together or as elaborate as taking a family vacation somewhere new.
If you’re looking for more support for your child, consider trying Brillia, a non-prescription, non-stimulant homeopathic medication that helps control symptoms of ADHD and anxiety. Free from harsh, synthetic chemicals and harmful side effects, Brillia helps reduce hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity, and irritability, without masking your child’s personality, so that their full potential shines through. Summer is also a great time to try Brillia with your kids without worrying about how a new regimen will affect their regular school routine.
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