Along this ADHD Parenting Journey, there are certain times that are so pivotal, that they end up shaping how you do things forever. I’ve had a few moments like this, including this one that forever made me keep a routine -even in the summer.
On our way to the pool one day, my son said, “So mom, we will do the lazy river, then the small pool, then after the adult break we will go the big pool until it is time to go, right?”
“Sure,” I said…and then it dawned on me. This had become our routine.
This routine was so organic-and I loved the realization that our ADHD kids benefit so much from routines – even in the summer.
One thing is for certain — this proved not only how much we love routines, but how much we need them. My son, clearly was enjoying our new “afternoon at the pool” routine and I was happy to oblige.
Why are routines a good idea for ADHD Kids?
I could tell my son felt reassured and comforted by the rhythm we had created for ourselves. This is how we have spent many, many afternoons during that summer. Was it me or was it my boys who had created this routine? I am not quite sure. But here’s why routines are so beneficial for kids with ADHD:
1. Routines help us find predictability in an often times turbulent world.
When kids know what is going to happen, they feel safe. Children have such little control over their lives and routines can give them a sense of security. With predictability, kids can relax because they know what is coming next. Life is more stable and so is kids’ behavior
2. Routines set expectations for kids and reduce power struggles.
Once routines are in place, everyday life flows much easier. You are no longer the one enforcing the rule, the routine will do the work for you. Hygiene and family commitments are great to put into a routine.
There is so much less push back when you do something everyday. “This is just when we brush our teeth and go to bed every night”
3.Routines act as markers of time and allow us to form good habits.
Self care and chores get worked into the routine and become easier to keep up with. Kids remember to make their beds and sweep the kitchen if they are tied to the morning routine. Routines can even be something to look forward to-fun family traditions-Wednesday night ice cream cones, anyone?
4.Routines can present opportunities for connection.
While summer bedtime is a bit looser, my husband and I still spend a separate 10 minutes with each kid right before lights out. We read or talk and everyone looks forward to this. No matter how busy our day is, we all know that connection will happen every night.
Easy Summer Routine Ideas for ADHD Kids
So now we know why routines – even in the summer – are great for kids with ADHD, let’s figure out a few places to create(or keep) them.
Not very many routines happen organically – most of them have to be orchestrated by you.
- Keep a set bedtime and waking time. Now this can be a bit looser than during the school year, but it’s important to “book end” your day. This could mean lights out at 9:30 or in your room with no screens and only a book at 9:30. For most kids with ADHD, as we’ve learned over the years, sleep is one of the things that is so important to their overall wellbeing. So, when I prioritize it, everything else works better. Sleep is so vital for their ADHD brains.
- Independent leisure time. We all need a break from each other in the summer – especially on the days we have nothing planned. I set our timer for 60 minutes and my kids entertain themselves in their rooms. They read or listen to music(no screens). This is super vital when were spending a lot of time at home. **Teenager update: My kids naturally do this, as they want to be alone more and spend less time with me. But this was a game changer when they were younger!**
- Keep daily and weekly family commitments. They get more opportunities to do extra chores for money in the summer, too.
- Mommy School : Work academic help into your summer routine. Even working for just 15 minutes a day is a great way to prevent the summer slide and keep kids brains active. Make time for practicing math facts, working on writing, learning more about a specific topic of interest.
- Screen time is limited. It’s easy for the empty hours of summer to get filled up with screens. My kids used to get about 30 minutes a day of screen time(those were the days!), but as they get older, this will have to be more flexible as the phone is a communication tool for friends and work. I’m okay with using a phone for music, social texting or a relaxation app, but will keep the mindless, passive videos and games to no more than two hours a day.
- We have a few traditions that happen weekly. My kids know what to expect, they look forward to it and it makes planning super easy. Kid Dinner Night(more on that below!), Family Movie Friday, and Library on Sunday are three of our non-negotiables!
- Last summer my youngest took Katie Kimball’s Kids Cooking class and loved it! So now they are in charge of one dinner a week. They help me plan, prepare and serve the meal, as well as help with clean up. The emphasis is on building real life skills. We pull from our list of favorite meals for an ADHD Diet. We love Kids Cook Real Food classes – my youngest has been through the entire series and loves to cook!
- Put yourself (I mean you mama!)in the routine. It is vital as parents of kids with special needs, that you find breaks for yourself. I desperately need time to myself to be quiet and think. I have a “No one downstairs until 8 am” rule . I get up around 6:30, so I have the time I need.
Hey! This is not about being a cruise director for your family. Summer is perfect for lots of time for kids to be bored and come up with things to do.
Once school resumes we will add more routines in the mix. We will have our after school backpack dump complete with snack break. We will follow with homework and dinner prep. Then a bit of family read aloud before we sit down to eat. Routines at home allow for a release of the stressors of our day. We can relax into the predictability of our time together and see what comes up in the in-between times.
Do you have any special routines in the summer? Which routines are you looking forward to having once your school year starts up again?