School is out and there is a welcomed respite from the stresses of rushing to a tight schedule, getting homework done, getting teachers to understand the needs of your child and the general daily grind of battling.
However Summer holidays can be very looooooooong for our children with ADHD without the structure and with added challenges of lack of routine, holidays and Days Out.
You child may get frustrated, cross, tetchy and the result will be arguments, shouting and fighting.
I suggest 9 practical ways to help your child smile this Summer.
1. Keep to a structure
Our special children need the structure and routine of a day clearly mapped out for them. So use a planner, or list, or visual timetable. Google pictures to use if preferred. Make it really clear exactly what is going to happen that day.
Decide together what the day should look like so that they feel like their opinions matter. They will be less reluctant to ‘pop to the shops’ if something more motivating is happening after.
Put the plan somewhere visible or use a calendar app like Google so the whole family can see what’s going on.
I have also made some planners which clearly shows your child what chores need doing before you leave. So it is clear and means you don’t have to keep nagging and repeating yourself. If you’d like a copy email me firstname.lastname@example.org
2. SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS
Our children with ADHD find making and keeping friends really tricky. Their natural impulsivity, lagging skills and a feeling of being too overwhelming causes our children to be left out of social arrangements. This can feel lonely during the long holidays.
Arrange for playdates at your home and help your child with the social skills of turn-taking and letting your guest choose. Keep it short and have plenty of activities on hand. Go outside or take them to the park or for a run.
If having something on every day is too overwhelming, make every Wednesday the day for outings. That way your child knows what to expect – particularly if it’s on the plan or calendar.
Get your child involved in an activity or club that really motivates them and they enjoy. They are more likely going to find other children who are like them and understand their needs. Clubs like robotics, art, lego. Or find a specialist centre that actually caters for children with special needs like Seriously Fun Swimming, Therapeutic Hooves, Chicken Shed or Potential Kids
Let any leader or organiser know of your child’s needs. Take along a one-page document with exactly what your child needs. Don’t cross your fingers and hope it’ll be okay. The organisers must know how to get the best out of your child.
3. HAVE fun
Use the long days to bring back the fun to family life.
You could decide together some great things to do and together write them on a post-it note. Put all the notes in a decorated box and call it ‘Lucky Dip’. When you have a time in the day, ask your child to go to the ‘Lucky Dip’ box and randomly choose a lovely activity to do together.
Check out Pinterest for more great ideas, but here are some suggestions:
- Get arty and make something out of junk, playdough, beads, material.
- Play card games.
- Make up a play, a song, a poem and perform it – write out the script and record and then edit it.
- Design and write a puppet show. Use socks for puppets.
- Make a lego tower that touches the ceiling.
- Make a collage or paint a picture on a large canvas.
- Go on a colour treasure hunt – how many purple things can you find around the house?
- Cook together.
- Make an indoor obstacle course using cushions, soft balls, cardboard boxes.
- Make a volcano or other science experiment using household materials
- Make a rain water collector.
- Play memory games.
- Have a picnic – indoors or out. Plan it and make it together.
- Play board games together. Decide the rules before you start so there are no arguments. Better still, design and make your own game.
4. Keep screens to a limit
Screens can be a great calming activity, particularly after a hot, exhausting day. There are some great mindfulness apps with calming meditation. Find some good YouTube videos that are fun and relaxing.
Some of the games actually promote problem-solving, team building and creativity. So it is not dreadful that your child wants to be a screen. Go and sit together whilst they play so you can see what all the fuss is about and use the language so you can talk about it together. During this time, teach your child the perils of the internet and how to keep safe. Unless you have these conversations and spend time together, your child may find themselves in vulnerable scenarios.
The time your child spends on a screen should be limited. Agree beforehand when they should come off so that it isn’t a battle. Ask how long is reasonable. And then they’re more likely to stick to the agreement! Use a kitchen timer or a sand timer so they can clearly see time remaining. However remember that online gaming is a situation where your child feels relaxed, confident and successful so it’s highly desirable for them.
Have the next thing to do really motivating so there’s an incentive to finish. Don’t forget to use the planner.
Be a good role-model and come off your phone too. If your child sees you glued to Facebook they wont react kindly if you’re nagging them to get off a screen.
5. Have some quiet time
Have a dedicated space set up that is calming.
Fill it with fluffy cushions, low lighting, soft toys, colouring sheets, favourite picture books and lava lamp. Headphones and MP3 player to listen to calm music or audio books.
You could buy a small tent or throw a sheet over a couple of chairs.
This could be a place you child could go to if they are feeling overwhelmed, to calm down or just to chill out. To have their own space will make them feel special and safe.
You could also use an emotions chart to help them describe how they’re feeling or get them to verbalise where they sit on a 1 to 10 scale.
This is useful to help them learn to self-soothe if they begin to feel frustrated or angry. Teach them to recognise the physical signs like sweaty palms, flushed face and heavy beating heart. Then they can go to the calm space or use other strategies such as counting or reciting a rap.
You may need to help by giving choices such as ‘go to your special space or go and sit in the garden’.
Reward with praise if your child manages to self-soothe.
6. Go outdoors
Our Summer could be boiling hot or chucking it down. Try and go outdoors come rain or shine. Again check out Pinterest for more great ideas, but here are some suggestions:
- Jump in puddles.
- Blow bubbles.
- Plan a bake or toy sale outside your house.
- Paint pictures on the ground or fence using large decorator’s brushes and water.
- Make chalk pictures.
- Find a large sheet of plastic, add bubble bath and water and have fun slipping and sliding
- Wash the car.
- Make a mini garden.
- Make a sensory garden.
- Make a bird feeder.
- Collect natural objects and make them into a piece of art.
- Check out a local hotel that has a pool and enquire about getting a day pass.
- Find parks with climbing equipment, ducks, animals, café.
- Ride bike, scooter, skateboard – do time trials and make circuits.
7. Different Expectations
If you go out for the day, have a family function or are going to a restaurant – then have different expectations of your child.
Wherever you go have an Emergency Pack – snacks, games, fiddle gadgets, chewy toys, colouring, MP3 player and headphones.
Try not to be embarrassed by other people who may criticize or give you funny looks. You know your child can only sit for 7 minutes. You know your child doesn’t like loud music. You know your child best. So you need to adapt things to suit their needs. We have to make changes to our world to accommodate our child’s world. Perhaps educate the wider family and let them know clearly that your child is trying hard and needs understanding and support, not criticism.
Quit whilst your ahead. If the day is going well but it looks like they’ve had enough, then leave and go home. It’s always best to end on a high with a smile.
8. Be successful every day
Our children with ADHD face a lot of challenges and their self-esteem can suffer hugely. We all know that school can be a tricky place as they may be in constant trouble and labelled as ‘naughty’.
So the Summer holidays is respite from that feeling of being a failure. Every day provide an opportunity to be successful. Find a reason for your child to be rewarded with smiles, praise and a hug. Manipulate things so that they have an opportunity to shine.
Comment on how nicely they put way the toys, got dressed really quickly, was super helpful in the supermarket, spoke politely to their sister. Notice the small things.
If your child has a talent or skill then use it to shine as much as possible.
Make time every day for them to talk to you. Sometimes this is best when you’re walking side by side or driving in the car. But this should be every day. Praise twice as much as you say anything negative.
It’s really tough but our children with ADHD get bored very quickly. So you need to keep them occupied otherwise you are in for a rough time.
It can be expensive to go on Days Out all the time but you could perhaps build up to a fun outing at the end of each week.
There are some great parks, woods, adventure playgrounds to explore and are free. Councils run schemes throughout the Summer holidays. Join local Facebook groups and keep your eye open for events. Join an annual scheme like National Trust which makes each visit cheaper.
Theme Parks, Water Parks, zoos, funfairs, Butterfly Farms, fruit picking, swimming, cinema all need careful planning. Involve your child in decisions on where to go, how to get there, what food to pack, what things to put in the Emergency Pack.
Keep to the plan and remember to leave whilst things are going well.
Our children with ADHD can be a challenge, especially when the days are so long. Remember, your child is not deliberately trying to wind you up. The ADHD brain is wired differently. With careful planning, creativity, tons of praise and enabling them to have real input, the long Summer days can be full of wonder, excitement and fun!
Let me know how you get on and if you have any other fab tips to share.
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