What a year! Now it’s the Summer holidays and an opportunity to have some fun and take off the pressure of school.
Easier said than done with a child with ADHD. I remember when I was teaching and before my son was diagnosed, I longed for the day in September when I could escape back to work.
So how on earth do you have a happy, chilled Summer without the stresses and arguments?
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
A child with ADHD without a plan will look for stimulation and excitement. That may mean bouncing on the sofa, interfering with siblings or investigating how far they can throw a cushion.
So there needs to be a plan of action.
This doesn’t mean a minute by minute account of what a day will look like. It could be a simple ‘Now + Next’ graphic, a plan of the morning, an overview of the week on a chart or notifications on Google calendar. Whatever works for you and your family.
But the plan has to be clear, visual and seen.
Sit down together and work out what will happen. Give notice and choice. Ask your child what they’d like to do and when. Add it to the plan. If they cannot come up with ideas, you could make a list of some options for them to choose from or put post-its in a lucky dip.
If your child can clearly see what their day will look like, there will be less complaining, boredom and seeking out excitement and perhaps inappropriate behaviour.
The Olympics is inspiring. Many sports and outdoor pursuits suit our children with ADHD. They are naturally competitive as they thrive on rules and fairness.
Encourage a sport where they are able to excel and hyperfocus their strengths and talents. It’s great that skateboarding is now an Olympic sport. Medals for Team GB have already been won in diving, swimming, cross country biking, taekwondo and triathlon (to date). Watch out for Simone Biles from USA who is an amazing gymnast who openly talks about her ADHD.
Every day go outdoors. Your child needs space, freedom, nature and to kick start those chemicals which will help with focus and concentration.
Wherever you go educate family, friends, club leaders, play dates about ADHD.
Have a print out if it helps about the key features of ADHD. Remember the mantra “ADHD is a neurological condition”. Have realistic expectations for your child. Make activities short, have an emergency pack (protein snacks and activities) and quit if things aren’t going well.
Never shout at your child in public. Shaming helps no one. If things haven’t gone well, ask yourself how can this go better next time? Is your child bored, hungry, over stimulated, unsure of timings? An ADHD brain will always go looking for stimulation, so school shoe shopping at 4pm when she is tired and hungry will not go well.
Punishments do not work for our children with ADHD. They just make them feel angry, frustrated and will damage your relationships in the family. Be the parent your child needs and change expectations of what they are capable of.
No doubt there will be arguments about screen time.
But first check what they are doing. Online gaming is sociable and makes your child feel successful. Watching YouTube and TikTok is like adults watching TV. Reading articles on Reddit or engaging on online forums is informative and teaching debating skills.
That all said, it is healthy to have a balance.
So decide together when and how long. Give warnings when it is time to come off and use alarms and timers.
Make the thing they will do after motivational and exciting (use a Now + Next visual if this helps).
I know when my son was little, it was really difficult to do things as a whole family. His needs were so different from his sister’s that it was frustrating for everyone.
So my advice for this holiday. Plan times (use the planners) for adults to spend time with each child separately. This could be actual dates in the diary but more importantly time every day.
This isn’t forever. But we’ve all had a year where we have had limited options. Now we can spread out and visit different places, it may be an opportunity to connect with each child in the family.
Of course if you can plan things for the whole family to engage with then that would be favourable too.
Our children with ADHD need help to calm and relax ready for sleep. If they get overtired their behaviour is affected and can be exhausting for the whole family.
Keep to a bedtime routine. Even in the holidays.
Often our children cannot turn off their busy brains. Have a notebook ready by their bed so they can write down any thoughts. Discuss what the next day will look like so they’re prepared. Talk about worries or concerns way before bedtime so it’s not the last thing on their mind.
Turn off screens one hour before bed. Charge the phone outside the bedroom. (This is pertinent for the whole family). Engage in calm activities and nothing that will over excite like jumping on the bed or a tickling competition.
Have a warm bath, lavender smells, soft lights. Read to your child or maybe an audio book. Gentle meditations or calm sounds on an app (use a device not connected to other apps)
HOPE YOU HAVE A GORGEOUS SUMMER