My son (who has ADHD) didn’t want to go to the end of school beach party with all his friends. The last day of school assembly and all the end-of-year excitement just wore him out. HE JUST WANTED TO GO HOME. I was torn. He would not see many of his friends next year because they were attending different middle schools. I wanted to enjoy the festivities with the other 5th grade moms. He’ll have fun once we get there, I thought to myself. But to the contrary, my son had been more irritable and anxious lately. He’d had trouble falling asleep. He was argumentative and he picked fights more than usual.
We did not attend the beach party that day. Transitions are tough for kids with ADHD. The end of the school year, moving up to middle school are both huge transitions. My son knew he’d had enough and I am proud of his self-awareness. We went home. A couple of hours later that day, he was bored (of course!) and asked for a playdate (with someone who had gone to the party and was still there). Sigh.
Parenting ADHD kids is tricky terrain in the best of times. These kids do best with structure and routine. Here are some tips to help you and your ADHD child have a great summer.
- Continue the school year morning routine (maybe not quite as early). What is important is the continuation of a similar daily structure. Have your child rise, get ready for the day, eat breakfast just like during the school year. A structured routine helps ADHD kids feel safe and in control of their environment. Don’t let summer break get you off track.
- These kids get bored! Create an activity list of fun adventures or things to do at home to pass the time.
- Help your child plan playdates ahead of time. Reach out to friends and put playdates on the calendar. Re-affirm the positive impact of making a plan instead of acting on impulse.
- Leave an activity while everyone is still having fun. Overtired, overheated, overstimulated children will get cranky and irritable. ADHD kids struggle with controlling their bodies and emotions under these circumstances more than others.
- Maintain a healthy sleep routine. ADHD kids often have trouble with sleep, so it is extra important to keep up the good routine learned during the school year. Staying up late can disrupt your child’s ability to cope during the day and may further upset their ability to fall asleep.
- Consider getting a white noise machine. The gentle hum drowns out noises that may keep your child from falling asleep. Free sleep apps are available for your mobile phone.
- Consider investing in black out curtains or blinds which help block out light during long summer days. It’s hard to fall asleep when it’s sunny outside well past 9pm.
- Relaxing in a hot shower before bed prompts the body to become sleepy.
- Check with your doctor and ask if Melatonin, a dietary supplement, would assist your child with sleep.
- Turn off devices at least one hour before bedtime.
- Kids with ADHD tend to hyper focus. They may spend hours playing video games which provide immediate stimulation, at the cost of hanging out with friends or getting exercise. Create healthy screen time habits in the summer. Using a time timer will give your child visual cues of how much time they have left on their device. Use parental control software to monitor your child’s online activity. Impulsive ADHDers may be tempted by the not so savory web content.
- Help your teen find a part-time job that fits his/her interest this summer. A summer job encourages responsibility, increases self-esteem and builds the resume. Discuss what will be expected of your child at work. Help your child succeed at the new job by adjusting his routine to fit the job.
- Discuss with your children what to expect at summer camp. Discuss what the camp routine might be like and strategize how to tackle problems.
- Don’t over commit your child with too many camps, down time during the summer is important. Let your child burn off energy while at home. Trampoline, ping pong, bike rides, badminton, any exercise can help keep boredom away.
- Keep up with a good diet over summer. Popsicles at the pool do not a good lunch make. Keep up with a protein rich and low sugar diet.