Remember when you were a child and all you had to do for summer break was show up? Even on days where there was no fun activity planned it sure beat going to school, or doing homework. A trip to the beach was nothing but fun! Your mom was the one who had to make all the food, pack everything, find a parking space and then make sure you kids didn't drown, get sunburned or get a rash from the wet sand. Now that we are parents of special needs, or typically developing kids, we start planning summer break in the month of March. And it's time consuming, expensive, and a little stressful. I'm fortunate enough to be able to stay at home so I can't imagine the stress of having to work full-time and juggle summer childcare and activities. Makes me break into a sweat.
In this article I have compiled some hopefully useful tips on making the transition from school to summer a less painful endeavor.
Have a Plan: Before that last day ask your teachers for any tips that they may have. They may have some excellent ideas if they live locally and they do know your kid. Ask what academics or behaviors they would suggest you focus on during summer break so that your child doesn't regress. And since consistency is key in avoiding regression there should be at least one activity a day, and one activity a week that stays the same throughout the summer. Whether that means going to the bathroom at the same time every day to avoid accidents, or having a quiet time for the kids so you can catch up on laundry or work. For once a week it could be a trip to the pool, library, etc. Just anything that is the same to reduce anxiety and build a schedule around. The day camps, and day trips can be built around this concrete activity. Asking for their input will increase enthusiasm and compliance.
Show it off: And once you come up with that schedule write it down and post it somewhere visible. Or make a more visual picture schedule for your non-readers. And have them mark each day off with a big X. This helps them prepare for the next day.
Have a Plan B: You worked hard to plan your summer down to the last minute, posted it on a huge colorful calendar and then blam, something falls apart. You have no problem being flexible but our children can be quite rigid. When planning your summer remember to warn them that sometimes plans change, and come up with some alternate activities. But I wouldn't post those alternates on the calendar just in case those don't work out as well, you don't want to totally blow out your kid. We are lucky to have dry summers here in California but we do have a risk of heat and bad air. Save the air days , often happen when the temperature goes above 100 degrees, and local forest and brush fires make it unsafe for children to play outside. On those days you can do whatever activities you normally would do when it rains. Movies, bowling, library, or just stay home to watch cartoons and build blanket forts.
Find Balance: What if your kids are far apart in age, special needs vs. typically developing, one is active and one is content doing more mellow activities? You may not be able to afford a whole summer of camps, most of us cannot. So there are days you have to find an activity for everyone. Before summer starts make sure you have the numbers and/or emails of the parents of the friends your kid likes to play with. Having a couple of friends over for a play date is often easier than entertaining your own kids. They play together, entertaining each other and you just have to make sure they are safe. This will give you a chance to hang out with your other child, giving them extra attention and doing something they enjoy. Even if that is cuddling on the couch watching their favorite show. When the other parents reciprocate, and have your child over their house, that also gives you a chance to do something special for one of your kids that their sibling might not enjoy. And if you can get all your kids to a play date you can have a few hours by yourself!! And not everyday needs to cost a lot of money. Go to the park and bring a picnic lunch, check your local theater for free movie times, or just stay home and let them play with the garden hose. And remember to let yourself enjoy the summer too! Get a sitter during the day to give yourself a break, or a sitter at night to have a quiet dinner with your spouse.
Whatever you decide to do this summer have a wonderful time! And remember it's only 12 weeks, you can do it!