Finding an effective ADHD summer routine can make or break your household during the long summer months. For a comprehensive ADHD treatment plan to be effective, it must have structure around routine. Without routine and schedule, people with ADHD get drawn off focus and overwhelmed easily.
You don’t want your kids’ summer months to be a waste. At the same time, though, you also don’t want your kids to feel like they have to work all summer. You need to strike the right balance between productive structure and fun entertainment. Finding the right balance is key because going too far on either end can result in disaster.
In this article, we seek to try to help you find that right balance. The following tips and strategies are designed to help you plan an ADHD summer routine that works for the whole family. Use this information to start planning your own routine today.
Make a Daily List of Activities for Each Child
One of the difficult parts of creating an ADHD summer routine might depend on how many kids you have and at what ages. Many families might have two, three, or more children all at different ages, all with vastly different interests. If more than one child has ADHD, this makes things all the more challenging.
During the school year, each child’s school would normally provide age appropriate interests and activities. Now, all of that planning and organization falls on you as the parent. To tackle this obstacle best, you really need to plan ahead. It would be best to even have a calendar worked out for the first month of summer before school even lets out.
Your ADHD summer routine needs to involve multiple activities each day in order to limit the amount of unstructured time. To tackle your daily list of activities, you should think in blocks of time such as an hour or two, for instance from 7:00 am to 8:00 am. In this block of time you can schedule the activity as getting up and breakfast.
Block out a whole week of time. Then fill in each block with activities that fit your children. Activities for different kids can be closely related but adjusted to fit age ranges. For instance, you can have a block of time devoted for reading with the activity as coloring or playing with chalk for much younger kids.
Once you have mapped out a daily list of activities for a week, you should post the list somewhere you can easily get to it and your kids can see it. With making the list visible for everyone, everyone can know that something has been planned and the day has structure.
Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule
An ADHD summer routine won’t work well unless you keep a regular sleep routine. Nothing tears structure and routine apart as quickly as throwing a sleep routine out the window. Probably the best way to think of your child’s sleep routine during the summer is to stick with the philosophy of bending not breaking.
Every routine or structure needs some flexibility. Without flexibility, the rigidity ultimately will work against you and cause more stress and feelings of being overwhelmed than having no structure at all. With that being said you still can’t get rid of structure altogether.
For summer, you should try to keep your kids close to the same sleep schedule as during the school year. The flexibility comes in with replacing a bedtime deadline such as 8:00 pm with a bedtime range such as 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
Most nights you might be able to get your kids to bed at 8:00 pm when they would normally be asleep during the school year. On other nights, they might not end up in bed until 10:00 pm, but with flexibility built in you don’t have to stress over the exact time. What you want to stay within is the range.
You need boundaries. Your kids shouldn’t stay up to 1:00 am or 2:00 am and then sleep all day. Changing our sleep schedules so drastically can through off our internal circadian rhythm and make getting back on a schedule all the more difficult. If you don’t keep a regular sleep schedule during the summer, you will be kicking yourself as soon as the school year rolls around.
Focus on Regular Healthy Meals
For many of us, kids especially, summer means vacation. On top of that, vacation means eating anything and everything you want. For keeping your ADHD symptoms in check, though, you can’t just toss your diet out the window with summer.
Diet has a profound impact on our brain’s chemistry, how we feel, and how our bodies perform. If we eat poor quality foods such as lots of sugars and others of the worst foods for ADHD, our minds and bodies will suffer. For the summer time, you’ll want to follow the same policy as with your sleep schedule, bend not break. You can spoil your kids every now and then with treats, but make certain these stay as occasional and not every day.
What this means for your ADHD summer routine is that you should schedule a special treat once a week during the summer. This treat could be a dinner out at your kids’ favorite restaurant or getting milkshakes at the drive in. Think of creative ideas to keep it fun and let your kids know in advance of these treats so they can look forward to them.
For the rest of the week and the rest of your scheduled routine, however, you should stick to a healthy diet. Even though school is out, you still shouldn’t let your kids just drink soda all day long. This means you, as the parent, might have to adjust things some. If your kids normally eat lunch at school, you will now need to plan out each lunch for them.
The best way to plan for healthy meals might be to tackle a whole week or even month at a time. Get a calendar to put on your fridge and fill out a specific meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day.
Let Your Kids Plan Some of the Day
Your kids don’t look at summer quite the same way you do. When you see summer days, you fear the idea of no structure. Your kids, on the other hand, look at summer and only see freedom.
While you want to impose structure to summer days, your kids just want to enjoy unlimited freedom. Seems like an impasse, doesn’t it? Ultimately, you don’t want to play the role of the bad guy, but you know your kids need structure, so you need to learn to compromise. Compromise here comes in the form of letting your kids plan out some of their day.
Again, though, this doesn’t mean they just do what they want when they want. Rather, it means that they sit down beforehand along with you and plan out specific portions of their daily schedule.
When you plan out your daily activity list, have your kids involved in the process. Specifically set aside a couple of blocks of time each week and ask your kids to fill in the activities for those times.
You can even provide them suggestions for activities that match their interests. For instance, if they like to play sports, you could recommend going to the community center or park to play with friends. If they like to read and explore, you could recommend adding in time to go to the local library or museum.
You should really try to stretch yourself here and let your kids be as goofy as they want to be. If they want to have a water balloon fight or make weird foods with food coloring, you should try to put their ideas in as much as possible. Resist the urge to say anything is too silly, but rather take their ideas and make them into constructive fun activities.
Plan for Family Time
More than anything, you need to make sure that you incorporate family time into your ADHD summer routine. There’s the old saying that with failing to plan you plan to fail. The same goes with an ADHD summer routine and planning for family time. If you don’t plan anything, family time simply won’t happen.
There exist many reasons why you should make family time a priority in your ADHD summer routine. First, your kids need social interactions to help them improve their social skills. During the school year, your kids have ample opportunity for social interactions in the classroom. During the summer, though, these opportunities disappear. As a result, you should encourage them to interact socially as much as possible and you should use family time as one opportunity for that.
Secondly, you should make family time a priority because it provides great benefits to overall health and wellbeing. Science shows us that our overall health improves when we spend time with the people who love and care about us. During the summer, your kids have more time off from school to spend with family. Make the most of this opportunity and specifically plan out family group activities.
Encourage Creativity through Learning
Just because the school year comes to an end that doesn't mean you turn off your brain. You need to make sure that learning doesn’t also end with the school year. No kid likes to learn, but they need to learn. Learning plays an important part in all aspects of life.
To be the best version of ourselves, we all need to practice our learning skills as much as possible. We should know how to learn and be able to learn in all seasons of life including summer break. This means that you as a parent should build specific learning opportunities into your kids’ ADHD summer routine.
Not only should you build opportunities for learning in your schedule, you should really encourage your kids to learn what they enjoy. Individuals with ADHD have a natural inclination towards creative pursuits. Rather than stifling that creative spirit, you should find ways to encourage their expression of ADHD and creativity.
You should find what your child really gets excited about and do everything to encourage them to learn more about that interest. If they like computers and electronics, you can plan activities to take them to a science museum or to a computer or gaming convention. If they like building things with their hands, you can get them a toolkit and some small project supplies.
Think creatively and build creative learning opportunities into your ADHD summer routine. With fun learning moments, your kids will engage with learning better. Additionally, with intentionally putting an emphasis on learning during the summer, they will more easily make the transition back to the classroom in the fall.
Don’t Be Afraid of Using Electronics
In some circles of ADHD thought, electronics use possesses a particularly negative stigma. While there is good reason for discouraging too much screen time use, many researchers don’t believe you should get rid of it altogether. In our modern world, screens play a part of our everyday lives. We all interact with them on a regular basis. As a result, you should plan to include electronics to some extent in your ADHD summer routine.
What you do want to do in regards to electronics, though, is to be sure to regulate when and how they may be used. You shouldn’t have electronics act as a virtual babysitter or simply as an easy filler when nothing is going on. If you end up doing so, the screen time typically ends up as wasted and unconstructive time. You didn’t plan anything so your kids will just gravitate to anything that flashes and provides distraction rather than what helps them learn and grow.
Instead of using electronics haphazardly, like most things in this article, you need to plan their use out far ahead of time. When planning daily activities, you can assign 30 minute blocks of time to TV or computer games. Keep the screen time to a minimum as much as possible and surround the electronic blocks of time with physical or outdoor activities.
You should try to strike a balance as much as possible. Kids with ADHD get bored easily. To address this, keep them switching from physical active activities to sitting activities to more creative pursuits. Ultimately, though, just shouldn't be afraid to keep screens in the mix.
Planning an ADHD Summer Routine that Works for You
Summers can be equal parts fun and chaotic. For kids, nothing quite comes close to the thrill and excitement of summer break. For parents, let’s just say it’s often a different story completely. By the middle of the summer months, parents just hope to survive until school starts.
Here at FastBraiin, we don’t want you to just survive, rather we want you to find balance and thrive. We do believe that planning out and implementing a regular routine can make a significant difference in your everyday life. We believe that if you use some of the tips found in this post, you can plan out an ADHD summer routine that really works for you and your kids.