Summer Tips for ADHD Kids

If you’re raising a child or teen with ADHD, the summer break from school can feel like a welcome relief. Without the stress of early mornings, homework struggles, and bedtime enforcements, the slower pace of summer can decrease tension at home to make room for more family fun. 

Before you plan to simply “go with the flow” these next couple months, it’s important to consider what your kids want and need out of summer vacation. By striking a balance that straddles routine and novelty, you can offer a summer filled with fun activities and a sense of calming “normalcy” that will help them return to school with confidence, stronger brain skills, and fond memories.

Apply these 10 tips to help support your child or teen with ADHD over the summer:

For More: 5 Pillars of ADHD Intervention and Support >>

Maintain some routine.

Most kids with ADHD thrive on structure, and maintaining a semi-regular schedule can help with a variety of issues, such as sleep deprivation, anxiety, and poor time management skills. That’s not to say that your family needs to get up at the crack of down or hit the sack early as they did on school nights. Instead, considering shifting to a later bedtime that coincides with longer periods of daylight to allow them to enjoy night-time campfires, stargazing, or drive-in movies with the family. Then make up the difference by letting them sleep in to ensure a full night of rest. By keeping your meals, bath time, and naps (if applicable) relatively similar from day to day, you’ll create a sense of security that comes with being able to predict necessary elements of routine. 

Add a structured activity.

Summer camps, youth sports, swim lessons, and group meet-ups can provide opportunities for socialization, physical activity, and the development of new skills. You’ll need to gauge your child’s interest and level of independence to determine if they’re ready for more autonomous activities (e.g., overnight camp), rather than those in which parents or siblings are participating or present.  

Consider a summer intervention.

As relaxing as it may feel to take a break from the rigorous demands of academics, summer is the perfect time to consider interventions that can help your student feel better prepared for the return to school in the fall. Behavioral therapy, mindfulness classes, and cognitive skills training can all address different issues commonly experienced by kids and teens with ADHD. 

Help your child set goals.

Coming off a school year filled with academic deadlines might make the first day of summer feel like a breath of fresh air after you’ve been underwater. But setting attainable goals for leisure activity can help build motivation, self-esteem, and the confidence to try new things. Start by talking to your child about what they’d like to accomplish, such as learning to ride a bike without training wheels, playing a song on the piano, or finishing the Harry Potter series. Break each goal down into smaller milestones, asking your child or teen questions like, “How many pages would you need to read each night in order to finish all the remaining books by the time school starts?” Or “If you really want to learn to play your favorite song, how many minutes of daily practice would be enough without losing the fun?”

Pack an essentials bag for your car.

No matter how organized you are, things outside your control will inevitably lead to delays, cancellations, and disappointments. Pack a bag with water, snacks, a pillow and blanket, sunscreen, bug spray, and favorite toys, books and games to help prevent (or at least minimize) a meltdown or episode of high anxiety. Leave it in your car for easy access if you get stuck at the doctor’s office, a sibling’s game that runs into overtime, or simply an overwhelming day at the park that requires an extended time-out from socialization. 

Schedule tech-free time.

Most parents will tell you that they try to limit their kids’ technology usage, but it’s far more effective to lead by example. Designate certain times of day as “tech free,” opting for books, games, cooking, or time outside, the latter of which has been called a natural remedy for ADHD symptoms.”  

Create a list of rainy-day activities outside the home.

The best-laid plans for the beach, amusement park, or pool can leave kids and adults alike disappointed. Having a list of back-up options, like bowling, indoor mini golf, the library, or a museum can serve as a next-best option when everyone has been planning for a day away from home. 

Stock up on brain-boosting games and toys.

There are lots of family-friendly games that help boost vital cognitive skills, the foundational skills our brains use to think, learn, read, and remember. Look for games and toys that build the three types of attention skills—divided, selective, and sustained, such as puzzles, building toys, Simon, Bop It!, and others that require focus and concentration. For a list of more than 35 common games to boost particular skills, check out this “Games for Better Cognitive Skills” chart. 

Build learning into everyday activities.

If you’re looking to boost brain skills organically, look for ways to incorporate learning opportunities in everyday activities. Cooking or baking, for example, could engage math skills if you double a recipe. Likewise, building something together—whether from scratch or with a kit—could engage your child’s planning, logic & reasoning, and visual processing skills. Sewing a quilt, grocery shopping, and yard landscape can all provide opportunities to work on the foundational brain skills that your child or teen will use throughout school, work, and life.

Schedule playdates with peers.

Socializing with like-minded friends isn’t just about keeping your child or teen engaged now, it’s also about alleviating some of the anxiety they may associate with returning to school in the fall. Look for activities and groups within your school’s nearby radius to improve the chances of your child making new friends with whom they may later share a class, eat lunch, play at recess, or engage in extracurricular sports, art, or musical programs.

Cooler weather will be here before you know it so enjoy summer and all it has to offer while you! These tips can help position your family for smooth sailing over the summer and a fresh sense of hopefulness for the return to school in the fall.

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