This has been a long, long difficult period of time for us all. Stuck indoors with lockdown and now it’s officially the Summer holidays. Really!? There are still so many restrictions. Travel plans cancelled, indoor places shut, limitations on socially mixing and heightened tensions in the family.
So it’s no wonder that life at the moment may be incredibly demanding, tricky and extremely difficult.
Every day may seem like ‘Groundhog Day’ with the same patterns of behaviour and the same responses. Arguments, frustrations and tempers frayed.
So how could things be different….
Your child may not be able to communicate that they are feeling frustrated. So instead you just see the behaviour – fighting, arguing, moodiness, picking rows, not engaging. But what is behind this behaviour?
Find opportunities to talk and listen to concerns. Validate feelings “Yes I know you’re bored/scared/unhappy”. Ask your child to come up with solutions. If they can’t, give them choices and gently help them to work out for themselves what they need.
As much as possible, raise your child’s status in the family. Make them the champion of something. Let them be in charge and have some sense of control. Let them choose what to wear, what to have for lunch, where to go, what to play.
Too often, your child has been told by an adult what to do, when and how. This does not suit our children with ADHD. It just leads to conflict. You need to parent in a different way to avoid rows and arguments.
Your child will flounder if there is no sense of what is happening and how long each thing is going to last. So have a visual schedule up somewhere everyone can see it. It can be a list, chart or full-blown pictorial timetable. Anything that let’s your child know what is going on that day.
This gives them time to transition and adjust. Calling out “put on your coat we’re going to Asda” with no warning, will lead to objections and rudeness. Particularly if they’re in the middle of a Fortnite game.
Have a good bedtime routine so that your child has time to calm down and there has been plenty of opportunities to grab your attention during the day.
We know our children are lagging behind emotionally and socially. So playdates can be fraught. Another child on their home turf, using their things can be stressful. Instead arrange play dates outdoors. Meet in the park, woods, skateboard park, fruit farm or fields. It takes the pressure of you and your child.
Quit whilst you’re ahead. If you see your child has had enough, then leave and go home.
If possible, put dates in the diary for each adult in the family to spend time with each child on their own. This special time can help heal and cement relationships.
Things to do
I am sure your list of things to do is running dry. You have been stuck together for so long. But dig deep. Find things that interest, motivate and your child is skilled at. Getting your child to do things that are not interesting or engaging will be a recipe for a battle.
Instead focus on at least one activity a day that they really enjoy. Go on Pinterest for inspiration. Go large. Do projects, knock down walls, decorate rooms, upcycle clothes, furniture, take apart a computer or build a den. Stuff that is fun. No pressure.
Of course this may be your child’s ‘go to’ every day and causes a huge amount of friction.
But the genie is out of the bottle. Our children are 21st Century babies who will be using screens more and more. Online games are designed to be compelling and addictive and gives your child a sense of success and friendship.
The latest advice is not to ban software or put blocks on certain apps. Like the forbidden fruit, anything that is banned will be more tempting.
Instead teach your child about online safety. It is reasonable to let your child know that you will be checking what they are looking at. Keep screens in family rooms and no charging in bedrooms overnight (that goes for the adults too)
But how do you get them off their screen and do something else instead? Use the schedule – make it clear that the thing that will happen after screens is fun, engaging and compelling. Decide together the limits and what the alternatives are. If your child has some ‘skin in the game’ they are more likely to engage. It can’t be a battle. If you impose your rules, pull the plug, switch off wifi, you will be met with anger and maybe violence. That way doesn’t work.
But if your child spends a little longer than you’d like on a screen….so what! Examine how long you actually spend on a screen on Facebook, Twitter, shopping, news , WhatsApp blah blah blah. It may add up to a lot. So if your child is happy, engaged and is okay, then maybe you shouldn’t be too concerned. It’s all about balance. As long as there are some other alternatives and opportunities to exercise and get outside, then don’t worry too much about screens.
If you can, don’t mention the S word until much nearer the time (watch out for a blog on how to get your child ready for the new normal type of schooling)
But for now, just focus on the Summer holiday. Whatever it looks like for your family. Free from pressures of maths, English, uniform, discipline and boundaries.
Take time out every day for yourself. If you are frazzled, you will be snappy and won’t have the energy or patience to deal with anything. Buy yourself a treat. Connect with friends. Go outside. Take up a hobby. Go on a date night. You are important and you are worth it.
I wish you a peaceful, happy Summer.