It’s the first week of July and summer is definitely here.
Summer is often equated with no school, no formal schedule nor routine, and possibly more time to “chill”. For some children, this “free time” has its benefits. The reality is though, most children, regardless of ability or disability, need some amount of structure and routine. For children with varying disabilities, lack of routine can create increased anxiety and behavioral challenges.
So how does a parent/caregiver best support a child during these summer months? Below are some suggestions to consider, whenever possible, as you continue your summer.
- Stick to a schedule, similar to the school year schedule, especially regarding mealtime and bedtime.
- Have a written schedule (even just with pictures depending upon your child’s capability). This provides security and safety. The child is aware of what is happening now and later and can easily refer to the schedule as needed.
- Make plans ahead of time. This gives the child enough notice to prepare for this activity/visit. Remember to add it to the daily schedule.
- Include outdoor activities as well as some kind of physical activity during the day.
- Focus on several behaviors to reinforce and reward. Be realistic in choosing those behaviors. Share with your child what you will be focusing on (what the expectation is) and share what the reward will be when that desirable behavior is exhibited.
- Stick with the limit, when setting time limits on certain activities (screen time, etc.) even though it may be tempting during difficult situations. Your child needs to know that when an expectation is set, you as the parent/caregiver will remain true to that expectation and respond accordingly.
- As the parent/caregiver, give yourself a break and a time to care for yourself. This may be difficult given your financial situation or perhaps you do not live near any family members who can help. Taking a break could like practicing deep breathing while your child has screen time or you having a cup of coffee by yourself while your child is preoccupied with a computer game, etc.
- Accept the fact that there will be some challenging times—it won’t all be smooth sailing! Don’t set yourself up nor your child for failure. There may be difficult times over the summer months. Try and do a check in with yourself regarding your behavior and your reaction to those challenging times. Your negative reaction can add to an already difficult time. If you step back, take a deep breath, and then think more clearly before you react, the challenging situation may resolve more quickly.
- Celebrate the good times in a way that your child understands and can feel it!
- Create moments of laughter and fun for everyone in the familial unit. It doesn’t have to be a huge project/activity—just something that would result in giggles, smiles and laughter for all.
So, make a plan, have a schedule, take a break, get outside and enjoy your summer break! Make this a positive experience for you and your family.