School is out and summer is here! But for many families with children who have ADHD, the abrupt switch to unstructured days can be overwhelming and lead to boredom or behavioral problems.
While a schedule can help children make the most of summer days, sticking to a routine becomes tricky during the time off from school. Some families start off with good intentions and then find they fall off track. Here are some strategies to help your family create and keep a routine this summer.
Continue ADHD treatment
Jeremy Didier and her five children have ADHD. She continues their medication management during the summer months. Maintaining her children’s ADHD treatment plan helps their family stick to a schedule and allows them to enjoy summer activities.
“Everyone stays on their meds during the summer,” says Jeremy. “That’s probably been the most helpful strategy for us by far. It makes things go far more smoothly at home when everyone has that extra support.”
Jeremy advises parents not to sign their children up for too many activities during the summer. She is aware that children with ADHD don’t do well with boredom and function better with a daily routine. Too much of a good thing can also have a negative effect, however.
“I tend to sign the kids up for far too many camps to make sure they’re occupied all summer, but it typically ends up being way too much,” she says.
Children get overwhelmed if they have too many activities, and summer days end up hectic rather than relaxed. The key is finding the right mix. Consider your children’s strengths, challenges, and personalities when scheduling activities. A balance of activities along with some downtime works best.
Check with the doctor before allowing your child to take a medication holiday during the summer. Some families do decide to temporarily discontinue medication if there is concern about growth or to better judge the need for medication and consider changes in dosage.
Create a summer routine
Jennifer has two children with the inattentive ADHD presentation. Her family consistently follows a routine during the summer. Each year, she creates a summer schedule and posts it on the refrigerator so that everyone is aware of the day’s activities.
“The kids know what to expect, and it seems to help them regulate their mood when they have routine,” she says.
Since the week’s activities are planned in advance and posted, even the babysitter can see the schedule and knows what is going on. Sticking to a schedule takes the pressure off the family because there are fewer daily decisions to make. Jennifer makes sure to include at least an hour outside and thirty minutes of reading each day, and she likes to keep meal and snack times consistent. On rainy days, she makes sure her kids have at least thirty minutes of movement or exercise. She recommends activities like workbooks for twenty to thirty minutes a day to help keep their academic skills up. If children like to be creative, schedule time for those kinds of activities. One summer Jennifer’s children hosted themed dinner parties, with each child planning the menu and making dinner with the help of their babysitter.
The benefits are greater than the challenges
Sticking to a summer routine has its benefits, says Jennifer. Her kids seem less moody or apprehensive when it comes to summer activities.
“If they know what to expect, they are less grumpy,” she says. “They can relax a bit and have fun too.”
Keeping a summer schedule doesn’t mean there can’t be some wiggle room. If things aren’t going well, readjust. Ask your children for their input.
“This is where we reassess or have brainstorming sessions with the kids for things they want to do during the week and schedule those things in,” Jennifer says. Summer doesn’t mean you have to be rigid. “We are spontaneous at times, too. We sometimes scrap part of the routine and go do something fun.”
Looking for more?
- How to Summer with ADHD Stress-free
- Take a Summer Break? Medication Holidays for Your Child
- Create Structure
- No More Pencils, No More Books: Helping Your Child Transition from School to Summer