Help! I have a ten-year-old son with ADHD, and I’m dreading summer vacation. Last year was a disaster. He teased his younger brother and sister constantly, and was forever stomping around the house shouting “I’m bored!” and then getting into trouble! Is there anything we can do to make the summer go more smoothly? I’m at my wit’s end and July just started! -Janna P. in Kentucky
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First of all, you’re not alone! I’ve talked to many, many parents who feel exactly the same way you do. The bottom line is that kids with ADHD have some special concerns, and it helps if parents can prepare a little ahead of time to ensure that the long stretch of summer vacation goes smoothly — and that their child is actually even learning something rather than getting into trouble all summer.
One of the characteristics that kids with ADHD share is that they have difficulty keeping themselves busy. They quickly tire of activities and then they get into the “I’m bored” and don’t know what to do. One of the things that I’ve used for that dilemma, particularly with younger kids, is to have them make a collage of all the things that they can do. I think this might work well for your ten-year-old. On the collage, he can have a picture of his bike, his skateboard, his art supplies, and books. Tell him, “When you start complaining and saying ‘I’m bored,’ you need to go in and look at your collage and pick something to do.” So, that’s a little prompt for him to remind him of all of the things that are available to him.
Also, remember to always have some structure in his day. So finding a good day camp or other kinds of organized activity for him during the summer is particularly effective for kids with ADHD. Often, programs through your local recreational parks or community center, where they’re learning to swim or play sports, is just the ticket. Sometimes schools even run summer programs with the playground director. There are also camps available for kids based on their interests: science camps, computer camps, area sports camps. If you have a local university, a lot of times they’ll run those kinds of things, as well.
I also recommend that you go to the CHADD website, where they have a list of summer camps that are specifically geared for ADHD kids. They have a lot of fun at these camps, but the programming also focuses on helping your child with social skills or problem solving or other kinds of things so that they get some behavioral training along with the camp experience.
Finally, I would just say to try to spend time on the weekends doing family stuff that’s fun. Have things around the house that your child can play with. At the beginning of summer, you could even get something new for the backyard like a badminton or croquet set. You could also give your child a skateboard if he doesn’t have one and encourage him to learn to do that during the summer. The key is to find something that’s unique to your child that will really keep him busy and active, too. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!