Dr. Bob’s Summer Vacation Tips for Kids with ADHD

Posted June 19, 2009 by

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Dr. Bob:

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 this year to make the summer go more smoothly? I’m at my wit’s end and it’s only June!

–Janna P. in Kentucky

Dear Janna:

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!

About

Dr Robert Myers is a child psychologist with more than 25 years of experience working with children and adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities and is the creator of the Total Focus Program. Dr Myers is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at UC Irvine School of Medicine. "Dr Bob" has provided practical information for parents as a radio talk show host and as editor of Child Development Institute's website, 4parenting.com which reaches 3 million parents each year. Dr. Myers earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

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  1. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    To ‘TT’: It takes two people to argue and only one person to end the argument. Your son is very unlikely to be the one to walk away so it’s very important that dad be the one to do so. Many times parents get sucked into arguments with their kids when they are trying to control their kids. The message your child gets when a parent yells or raises his voice is that the parent isn’t in control, and that the parent is an emotional peer. Your child also learns that raising his voice, yelling, or arguing is a way to solve problems, which only makes him more likely to keep arguing in the future. My guess is that you and dad don’t want to send your son these messages at all. So instead, talk to dad and come up with a plan that he will walk away next time your son tries to argue. After walking away, the plan should include something dad can do to take care of himself and get calm. Here is an article that will give you both some ideas to work with. Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this. Calm Parenting: How to Get Control When Your Child is Making You Angry

    Reply
  2. TT Report

    My son is 12 and has ADHD with a LD (written expression). I too invested in a summer pool membership and have had a friend join him when possible. He attended a very structured 5 night summer camp where he met several friends and began some devotional time, it’s a struggle to get him to read books.. I finally relented and set up a FB where he’s been able to stay in touch with his friends and several family members too. He has begun washing our cars and mowing the lawn for extra allowance or privileges. One of the main issues we struggle with is being argumentative and confrontational. He and his dad frequently get into heated arguments. Any suggestions?

    Reply
  3. diskgolfdad Report

    Our 14 year old, 8th grade son used to be very involved in skateboarding, but has stopped so he can ‘hang’ with friends instead. We’ve had to really structure his day as he’s gotten into some trouble. The counselor suggested, especially for the summer before high school, that we really provide ample activities. I’ve read some of the posts and have some possibilities, but does anyone out there have fun, exciting structured activities/ideas that my wife and I could use that might help in this critical time. Thanks.

    Reply
  4. lunalite Report

    Hi! I’ve had the same problem in summers past with my 8 year old adhd child. This year I planned in advance to fill the summer up with different day camps. I made sure that they were active camps with swimming and sports activities to keep him moving. Whenever he is out of camp, I make plans to visit the library for their summer activities such as puppetmaking and stuntology. I also visit the park or take a walk with him and our dog every day if the weather permits. These things are all printed on a weekly schedule that I’ve made for him. This way he knows what we will be doing next that day. Overall, I am glad that I filled our summer with activities! He says that he has had the best summer yet and there aren’t nearly as many complaints of boredom. Good luck!!!

    Reply
  5. cynthia Report

    I am home with my step children( 1 ADHD & 1ADD both medicated) from 8 am to 1or 2 pm in the summer months.

    Since I dont agree with TV & Xbox for hours on end…
    I did what Lehman sugessted, replaced those activities with something else.

    I have found if they are engaged… they dont care what they are doing.Even chores are tolerable.
    So we clean the bathroom together, make dinner together, do a load of laundry, work in the yard an hour & go for a dog walk all together.All before I go to work !Plus the physical activity winds them down a bit!

    Praising them ,telling them how much of a help it is .
    How they are really taking a lot of pressure of me.
    praise praise praise!!!

    Reply
  6. ADHD Mom Report

    Dr. Bob: This is really timely. I’m mom wiht ADHD and my 12 year old son has it also. The two of us together can really clash at times! I’m going to invest in a summer pass to the water park so he can get out and do something, and not climb the walls at home!

    Reply

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