Summer (or any holiday time) can be challenging for children who thrive on schedules. Here are 5 things you can do when your child can’t handle “free time”
- Make a schedule! This may sound silly - but I talk to many moms who resist the idea of a summer schedule. Even if you have a spontaneous personality, you may have to make adjustments for your child who is really anxious at not knowing what each day will bring. Even a basic summer schedule will help relieve some of this anxiety.
- Make a list of free time activities. Many kids with learning issues have a hard time thinking of things to do with their free time, or they may have one only thing that they want to do. Sitting down together and brain storming a list of possible activities can be helpful. Making a list of things that have to be done before the “favored” activity (read; video games) can also be a big help in reducing arguing.
- No surprises!! If you are the type of person who wants to wake up each morning and see if you want to take off for the beach AND you have a child with ASD or anxiety - you will have a day of meltdowns on your hands!! Instead, pick one day each week for a “big” day such as the beach, amusement park etc. This will help your child anticipate that day. Make sure that you tell them in advance exactly what the plan is AND discuss coping strategies for when they get tired or over-whelmed.
- Schedule rest time! Kids who are easily overwhelmed with lots of activities can really have a hard time with the go, go, go mentality of summer. Schedule times of rest, reading or napping into your day.
- Create alternate activities. My daughter on the autism spectrum could never have handled a trip to Disneyland - so she would spend time alone at her grandmother’s house (she loved that - nice and quiet) while we took the rest of the kids to Disneyland or any other equally stressful type of outing. Don’t feel badly that your over-whelmed child can’t do everything that your other kids want to do. They are probably more happy with a quiet day at Grandma’s than you can even imagine!! You can also leave the other kids sometimes and take your over-whelmed child on a quiet outing alone with you. Don’t get stuck in a fantasy of the whole family doing everything together all the time. That may not be realistic!!