June 14, 2023
Now that school’s finally over, is your family exhaling a collective sigh of relief? No more harried mornings, frustrating homework sessions, or arguments about bedtime. Time to kick back into the free and easy mode, right? Not exactly. Just because you’ve eliminated school from daily life doesn’t mean there aren’t new summer routines and activities to plan for and adjust to. Perhaps, after a few days of rest and relaxation, family conflicts start to arise. Arguments about screen time, household chores, and curfews can quickly escalate into massive, unpleasant explosions. Maybe the Blobdom-Boredom Matrix has already started to set in: when screen time is over, your child or teen complains about having nothing to do. How can you collaborate as a family to balance different needs and have a satisfying summer?
Despite their claims for disliking schedules or feeling choked by plans, many neurodivergent kids, especially those with ADHD, benefit from a sense of purpose and some structure to their days along with open-ended time to space out. Having a place to go and something to do keeps them engaged mentally, physically, and socially. Setting up a collaborative summer routine that establishes screen time limits, encourages physical activity, includes time spent outdoors, and lets them pursue an interest is critical to a summer of sanity for everybody. This plan also assists them in continuing whatever progress they’ve made during the school year in terms of building executive functioning skills. Plus, it sets them up for a smoother transition in the fall.
The key to creating a stress-free summer lies in staying the course with routines you’ve already been following and making some tweaks that are appropriate for this break. Because it’s vacation, there’s probably more flexibility about when to wake up and go to bed, how much screen time makes sense, and establishing curfews for older kids. What doesn’t change are your expectations for cooperation and effort. Whether your child goes to camp, plays organized sports, goes on playdates, plans sleepovers, works at a job, or shoots hoops at the Y, there’s still some type of schedule for each day that correlates to the one they’re accustomed to from the school year. Negotiate these items with your child or teen, letting them take the lead on what they want in terms of when, where, and how before you offer anything. Likewise, collaborate on negotiating very specific limits…