Strategies for a Successful Summer
Summer is here and for parents, teachers, and students, thoughts of sleeping in, swimming or reading by the pool, playing with friends and taking that fun family vacation sound like a welcome and much needed break from the fast paced experience of the school year! Helloooo Summer and goodbye schedules!
As you make plans for your family, I encourage you to consider a few important ideas. While all children do better with clear structure and routine, for those who experience anxiety, ADHD, spectrum disorders, or any pervasive emotional challenges, routine and structure are essential for feeling safe and comfortable. For many kids, the school day routine is a predictable “safe zone” that they depend upon. Without it, anxiety, oppositional behavior, and temper tantrums are more likely, making it even more challenging for parents. That magical planned vacation may not feel so magical!
Here are a few tips to help keep your child on track so your summer can be fun, rewarding, and enjoyable for the whole family.
1. Maintain your Schedule
Even if bedtimes and morning routines adjust slightly, it will only serve you to create a predictable schedule each day that will allow for plenty of sleep and the comfort of predictability. Mimic routines as much as possible when traveling as well.
2. Make Plans & Make It Visual (the earlier the better)
Kids who thrive on predictability and routine have a really hard time with transitions (moving from one activity to another) and knowing beforehand what is coming next is crucial. Use a large dry erase calendar or picture board with posted times so kids know what will be happening that day or that week (art camp drop off and pick up, play dates, visit to Grandma’s, beach vacation, etc.).
3. Get Outdoors
Summer is the ideal time to get away from screens and spend some time in nature. Summer camps, walking the trails, swimming in a natural pool, or simple family picnics can create a new, calm sensory experience that opens the door to connecting our kids to their bodies and the natural rhythms of the earth around us.
4. Create (or maintain) a Behavioral System
Clear behavior expectations, boundaries, and rewards and benefits of good behavior are even more essential during the seemingly boundlessness of summer. Kids may like to act like they are in charge, but security and feeling safe comes from knowing what is expected of them and the choices they have in front of them, including the consequences of those choices. Make it simple -choose two or three of the most desired positive behaviors you want to focus on and consistently nurture those with positive reinforcement all summer.
Following these strategies can create a fun, nurturing, and enjoyable summer for everyone as well as providing the tools that will make transitioning back into school easier in the Fall. Now grab a towel, pack some snacks, and head to the lake!
Lisa Hellmer, LPC
St. Gabriel’s Counselor