The long and lazy days of summer are here – a time to relax, kick back and enjoy a retreat from the usual schedule. Unfortunately, sometimes the tasks associated with school vacation can be more stressful than relaxing.
Mixed feelings are not uncommon as adjusting to a new schedule can leave any parent dazed. Working parents may fret about childcare, and parents of children with special needs may be concerned about the lack of structure that accompany the summer months.
From a child’s perspective, summer vacation is usually seen as a wonderful treat. For many children, the summer is an opportunity for sleeping late, swimming, county fairs, summer camp and more freedom to do whatever they choose. For others, the long stretches of “nothing to do” days or lack of routine may mean boredom or bountiful opportunities for trouble and mischief.
Maintaining a balance of fun with structure throughout the summer months can be extremely challenging for busy families. The key to creating a positive summertime experience for the entire family is staying on top of the details.
A Dozen Details for a Satisfying Summer with Kids
Hold Family Meetings – Family meetings give everyone an opportunity to express their wishes and have input into making plans. It’s also a great time to go over expectations with your children such as behaviors and chores. Write them down so there isn’t any confusion later.
Maintain a Routine to the Flow of Summer – For a child on the Autism spectrum, maintaining a routine is a must, but routine helps any child deal with the lack of structure over the summer. Establish morning chores, set a regular bedtime and as predictable a family dinnertime as possible. Following a routine helps children feel less anxious.
Remember to Relax! – Schedule a daily downtime of inactivity for all. It’s a great time for reading, journaling or just resting. The stress downtime relieves will always pay great dividends – over-scheduling never has any benefits.
Create a Venue for Daily Reminders – Hold a breakfast pow-wow where the day’s activities and expectations can be shared. Children always fare much better when their life is predictable.
Post a Calendar – Posting a family calendar where everyone can see it is a great way to keep track of activities, whether it is a family vacation, summer camp or “do nothing” days. This way everyone can refer to the calendar when something new comes up and know whether it will interfere with something else that is going on.
Encourage Daily Journaling – Buy each child a notebook to keep a journal for the summer. Let them keep track of their activities and their thoughts throughout the summer. Build 15 minutes into each day (or each week) for them to write down their thoughts and ideas.
Incorporate Reading into Summer Activities – If you are going on vacation, visit the library and find books on the places you will be going. If you will be staying around your local area, have your children get books on different places around the world and have them take “pretend” vacations to exotic areas every week.
Involve Kids in Planning – Encourage older children to help in preparing summer plans. Have them map out routes to take on trips, or ask them think of 5 things they would like to do, such as a family picnic or going to the beach. Letting them choose a few of the activities will ensure that they are looking forward to something special because it was their choice.
Plan Solo Time – Keep a list of activities your children can do alone, such as crafts or planting a garden. Preparing a list ahead of time will allow you to have supplies on hand. When your child says, “I’m bored” the answer is simple: refer to the list and you are ready to go.
Start a New Summer Tradition – Start a new summer tradition that all family members can participate in. An annual scrapbook of summer events could be a nice family project and can take shape over the course of the entire summer. The best part is everyone can contribute!
Nourish your Child’s Interests – Investigate summer courses or programs for kids at your local library, community center or town park. Who knows, maybe their life passion will be ignited?
Avoid Media Overload – Don’t allow media to entertain your children throughout summer. Make clear rules and expectations about screen time (television, video, and computers) and stick to it. Substitute interactive activities, such as talking, playing board games, and alternative entertainment, such as athletics, hobbies, and creative play that will promote quality brain development and growth.
Throughout the summer months stay alert to what is working well. When is the family having the most fun? What strategies are producing the best results? Breakfast pow-wow’s? Family calendar? Quiet time? Use this valuable information to make adjustments if necessary. Focusing on the affirmative will reap more good times and great memories for everyone.
Want more strategies for dealing with a child on the autism spectrum? Get your free ecourse, Parenting a Child with Autism – 3 Secrets to Thrive and a weekly parenting tip newsletter, The Spectrum, @ www.parentcoachingforautism.com.