Summer is great time for families to connect since most children are home more than usual during the summer months. But, summer can also be a really challenging time for parents to find ways for their children to have productive things to do. Often, summer quickly turns into an incredibly stressful time for parents as they bob and weave, trying to keep their kids occupied, active, and entertained.
The John’s Hopkins School of Education reports that children lose up to 1-3 months of academic gains made the prior year over the summer. Other research says that this number is actually closer to 4 months of academic gains. When thinking about our kids with ADHD, we know that these numbers may be worse for children who have ADHD. Keeping kids healthy and active as well as keeping their minds engaged in structured, consistent routines during the summer helps all kids but particularly kids with ADHD avoid the summer “brain drain.”
Below are several easy ways to keep your kids active during the summer. Check out Additude Magazine online (http://www.additudemag.com/index.html/) for more fun and active ideas and great online resources for kids and teens with ADHD.
1) Create summer routines and schedules. Don’t leave days open-ended. Kids do better when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. Provide blocks for free time that can be filled in with new ideas or plans. Use visual and verbal reminders for your kids, and don’t forget to provide lots of positive reinforcement for a job well done!
2) Set the bar low. Plan for, at minimum, one absolutely, no question about it, successful activity each day for your child. Think simple, but find something she’s good at and enjoys doing. It can be really small, like building a block tower or practicing the piano or guitar. Plan for this daily and make time for her to share and you to praise her accomplishments and success. This is a great opportunity to connect with your child. Don’t miss it.
3) Get your kids outside. Plan and let your kid be involved in helping to plan for multiple times during the day for physical activity so that your child can direct all of that wonderful, extra energy running around, jumping on the trampoline, sliding down the slip-n-slide, or washing the van. It’s important for kids to spend time playing outside, engaging in hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play, and ADHD symptoms are often reduced when kids are exposed to outdoor activities. The brain learns more when the body is active.
4) Limit, reduce, or (gasp!) even eliminate electronic devices. The AAP recommends that kids and teens should have access to high quality entertainment media/electronics for no more than one or two hours per day. Parents should also establish “screen-free” zones at home. Kids should not have TVs, computers, gaming systems, hand-help electronics, or tablets in their bedrooms, and don’t let your kids watch television while they eat. (See more at: https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/pages/media-and-children.aspx#sthash.nZDKINBI.dpuf)
5) Plan for a half-hour of math and at least a half-hour of reading daily for your kids during the summer. Make math fun. Find creative ways to engaged your kids with developmentally appropriate number fun. When it comes to reading, set an example. Kids learn so much from simply watching and modeling parents. Set an example of reading at least 30 minutes daily with your kids. Keep their minds sharp and avoid summer learning loss by balancing academics with plenty of routine, structured down time, and fun-filled freedom that summer brings!
Dr. Karen Hutcheson is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. She specializes in the assessment and treatment of kids from “hard places.” Dr. Karen is known for her domestic and international clinical work focusing on helping children and adolescents from foster care, international adoption, domestic adoption and their forever families.
Dr. Karen has served as a missionary in Uganda and is an adoptive mother and an orphan care advocate. She speaks regularly at national adoption conferences and provides clinical consultation and training in orphan care settings domestically and internationally. She is also the Director of Discipleship and Training at Scarlet Hope in Louisville, Kentucky.
She is professionally trained in the Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI)®, Theraplay®, and EMDR. She has a heart for working with children who come from “hard places.” Dr. Karen has a wide range of experience in areas of child development, attachment, parent training, relationship-based traumas, pre and post adoption services, international orphan care community consultation, and missionary member care.