Tips to Surviving an ADHD Summer


Having a child with ADHD can be challenging at times for both parent and child. We often receive notes from teachers saying our kiddo is talking too much in class, distracting other, and not listening. It’s not just school, parent’s will usually see the same symptoms at home.

ADHD is marked by inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity, which means that children with the condition may act quickly without thinking; can’t seem to sit still; will walk, run, or climb around while others are seated; and are easily sidetracked by what is going on around them. For these reasons, they may have difficulty at home and school, and in forming and maintaining relationships with their peers.

These behaviors not only make it difficult to succeed during the school year, but it may also be hard to find ways to survive the summer months as well.

Luckily, we have some tips to help you and your child survive an ADHD summer.

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1. Set Some Structure

If children with ADHD don’t have a structured day or week, they can get into trouble because they may try to create stimulation for themselves in a way that might result in mischief. Kids with ADHD can be sensation-seeking, careless, and more impulsive than children without this behavioral disorder.

Kids with ADHD are more likely to get hurt over the summer than during the regular school year. There are a lot more accidents if a child is distracted or impulsive.

That’s why a regular routine is so important. Kids with ADHD are a little less able than kids without ADHD to structure themselves, so they need a little more external support.

So even if all you do is tell them in the morning three things they will be doing (some kids need times, others need references like, “after lunch we will…”), this will be helpful to prep them for returning to the more strict schedules provided by the public school system and, hopefully, weed out some of their anxiety that comes with their return in August.

A great way to set structure is utilizing a dry erase board with the day or week’s activities listed. The child can pick activities they want to do, the parent can pick, or you can decide together.

2. Decrease Screen Time

Several kiddos who thrive on screen time. So they are rewarded with this privilege frequently. For some children with ADHD, screen time almost always equals a meltdown. This may come in the form of him losing a game and ending up punching or throwing the iPad, or his losing it when his screen time is up. Regardless, there are few times when it ends well.

However, if you believe that screen time is a normal part of your kid’s day, summer break may mean more time on the computer/video game/tablet. It may prove best for you to begin to decrease the extra time online about a week before returning to school. This will allow them to adjust more slowly and (fingers crossed) without much of an aggressive transition back to the real world when that first school bell rings.

3. Consider Day Camps

Parents of ADHD kids should try to find structured activities where children will have the opportunity for interaction with peers, and where they can have a consistent day-to-day routine, such as summer camps, religious camps, or sports-related activities.

Camps don’t have to cater exclusively to children with ADHD. Some kids, especially in the group with predominantly inattentive symptoms (such as being easily sidetracked or daydreaming, rather than being hyperactive or impulsive) of ADHD, will do well in many nonacademic settings or activities.

Kids with ADHD who have marked social difficulties may benefit from a specialty camp. Many of these camps do a nice job teaching kids skills to help them in making and keeping friends.

Of course not every family can afford day camps.

If your family can’t afford to pay for camps try making a play date in the morning with a friend, and generally having something on the agenda -whether it’s visiting a friend’s house or taking a trip to a local zoo. It’s also really good to encourage creativity. Arts and crafts projects can be helpful.

4. Set A Bedtime

Having fun-filled summer days often hinges on getting a good night’s sleep. However, many children with ADHD have difficulty sticking to a regular bedtime. They may get preoccupied with TV or computer games or just have difficulty winding down. As a result, they can be tired and unwieldy the next day. And that can drive parents crazy.

Bad bedtime habits are more typical of kids with ADHD because their bodies are always active, and it’s harder for them to settle down to go to sleep.

A set bedtime is essential for kids with ADHD, and this should not change simply because the days are longer in summer.

Set a bedtime Monday through Friday, then be more flexible on weekends.

It may be beneficial to have some downtime for about an hour before the bedtime actually happens. Read with your child, watch something relaxing on TV, or tell him or her a story to create a transition from an active phase to a sleep phase. And “give in once in awhile. If you go to the zoo or amusement park for the day, you don’t have to run home to get your kid in bed by 9:30 p.m.

5. Try Not To Take A Medication Vacation

Whether to stop or adjust their child’s ADHD medication during the summer can be a hot button issue for some parents. Parents may crave the respite because these medications can have unwanted side effects, such as poor appetite, and many have an inherent fear of having their children on any medication, especially a stimulant-type drug. Some parents may just want to see how their child fares without medication when there are no academic pressures.

Parents can consider using the summer to address concerns and questions that they have about their child’s current medication regimen. For example, if parents see that the child gets benefit from medication but is having worrisome side effects, they can consider a trial of different medication in summer.

The warm-weather months are a safer time to try this because you don’t have to worry about your child failing tests or doing poorly academically during the summer, so it can be a good time to make these changes.

Parents can choose to take their children off medication in the summer. When they do, they may see hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inability to pay attention return with a vengeance.

If you choose to take a medication break, it is strongly encouraged to resume medication two weeks prior to the new school year so that kids are prepared to perform at their best from day one.

Of course, ADHD is a condition with different levels of symptoms and severity. Every ADHD child is different and requires an individual assessment. Parents should speak with their child’s doctor, psychiatrist or therapist about the best approach during the summer and year-round.

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