While your average child may be thrilled by the end of the school year, anticipating lazy days and sleeping in, the prospect of summer break isn't quite that unalloyed pleasure for parents. And if you have a child with emotional or developmental issues who is challenging in the best of times, nothing calls on whatever extra powers you might possess more than the long break that lies ahead.
While all kids do better with structure and routine, those with mental health issues including anxiety, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders are especially dependent on the predictable “safe zone” that school provides. Without it, they’re more prone to anxiety, oppositional behavior, and tantrums. For the parents who care for them, “vacation” can be anything but.
Here are some tips to help keep your child on track so summer can be as rewarding as possible for everyone in the family:
Maintain your schedule
While you may never be able to duplicate the structure school provides, it helps to maintain the school year’s daily schedule, right down to meal times and bedtime, as much as possible. It can be very tempting to let your kids stay up late and sleep in—especially on weekends, when you want to do the same—but in the long run, sticking to the same schedule pays off by keeping your child more comfortable, and hence more cooperative.
Make it visual
Kids who thrive on predictability and are prone to panic over transitions—including those on the autism spectrum—benefit from posted schedules that outline what will happen throughout the day (i.e., 7am: Wake up, go to the bathroom, wash face…8am: breakfast…) Depending on your child’s developmental level, simple pictures can also help.