A lack of routine or structure can make the holidays more challenging for all families, but especially those where there are children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Here are some ideas for activities you can do and tips for how to keep you and the kids sane!
Stick to a routine
Without the structure of the school day, kids with ADHD may struggle and many will still need a routine in place. However tempting it may be to let them stay up late and then stay in their pyjamas all morning, it’s better to stick to a basic routine where the same things happen at the same time every day. This will also ease the transition back to school at the end of the holiday period.
Create a timetable
Having a timetable in place will help you to be organised and will help children to feel prepared. It needn’t be complicated and if you create it with a child, giving them certain choices, they will feel more in control. You don’t have to create an amazing colour coded masterpiece (although you can if you want!). Simply spending a minute at the beginning of every day (or week) discussing and noting down what you’re going to be doing is sufficient.
Keep them moving
Children with ADHD usually struggle with sitting still for long periods of time. So try to keep the children moving and active where possible. For younger children, this could be as simple as setting up an obstacle course in the garden or going for a walk. If the weather is not great, try searching for child-friendly workouts on YouTube such as Cosmic Kids Yoga and Joe Wicks. It can be harder to motivate older children, especially teenagers to participate in anything active. As much as you can, encourage them to meet up with friends outside. It’s also a good idea to see if there are any suitable holiday clubs and activities available in your area.
Make use of technology for the kids to have a bit of downtime or to learn about something new. Technology can be a great resource, however, like anything it is best in moderation, so it is sensible to limit the amount of time spent using it where possible.
Depending on the restrictions in your area, many places are now open again, albeit with rules in place. Day trips can be a fun way to break up the school holidays. The seaside is always open, and zoos, museums and aquariums are now mostly open too. Check which other local places are open and remember that many are operating at limited capacity. Booking is often essential so make sure you plan days out in advance.
Learn new skills or set challenges
Why not teach the kids a new skill or set them a fun challenge? This is especially important for kids with ADHD who can become easily bored and restless. Some examples include cooking, gardening, skateboarding, trampolining or even DIY. These are great life skills and can help to develop their knowledge in a wide range of areas. These types of activities can sometimes lend themselves to short projects that span a few weeks.
Pinterest is an amazing resource of ideas if you need some inspiration for summer projects to do with your children. There is everything from craft ideas, recipes, physical games, gardening projects and much more. You can explore Pinterest here.
Ask your child
This may seem like an obvious one, but ask your child if there is anything that they’d really like to do this summer. Depending on what they say you may need to compromise, or break this down into smaller chunks but ultimately, if they want to do something, they will be more engaged in it. It’s important to communicate together well and to evaluate how things are going. Remember to keep checking how your child is feeling. Ask them regularly what they are enjoying doing.
Keep up the education
If you can, try to keep your child learning over the summer holidays while they’re not at school. This is particularly important this year, when children have missed so much regular schooling due to the pandemic. Practical learning is great for children with ADHD. They may be able to use maths during activities such as baking or learn new facts about nature when you’re out and about. Remember, home is not school and a child mustn’t feel under pressure to learn. However, if you can find a way for them to learn that is based on their interests, they’ll learn a lot more. There are some good tips about unschooling here. This approach to learning involves finding learning opportunities in everyday situations.
It’s okay to have quiet days
It’s important to remember that a child with ADHD can be easily overwhelmed and hyper-sensitive to change and too much excitement. Sometimes parents put a lot of pressure on themselves to keep the kids going to places and doing activities every single day. Going out day after day after day is just too much for some children. It’s absolutely fine to have quiet days when you just stay at home and relax. You know your child best and if this is the best way to keep your home life harmonious, then do it!
Remember not to compare your family to other families. We are all unique and have our own way and reasons for doing things the way we do them.
Give yourself a break
It can be really difficult to suddenly have the kids at home all day every day. The summer holidays can seem to go on for a very long time. Make sure that you manage to get some alone time to yourself and that you’re not just a slave to your children. If you’re juggling work with childcare then it’s extra important for you to have some time just for yourself. It’s your summer too.
Children with ADHD can be unpredictable and things don’t always go to plan. If plan A doesn’t work, be prepared to change tactics and try something else.
Every child has a different set of needs and managing siblings can be tough. You may have more than one child with ADHD or other additional needs to contend with. Siblings falling out with each other is completely normal and sibling rivalry can be extremely challenging for the whole family. If you can, try to give siblings a break from each other and let them take it in turns to choose activities. Time alone with one parent is often highly valued by children who usually have to share their parents. Of course, it’s not always possible for everyone but it’s worth trying if you can.
Many of these tips are applicable if you go away on holiday too. A key takeaway is not to compare your family to other people’s. Ignore what other people post on social media highlighting their idyllic family time. It can be difficult to fill unstructured time for kids with ADHD. Remember you can only do your best and no parent gets it right all the time.
Further help and guidance
If you would like further support with managing symptoms for you or a loved one, then contact us at the ADHD Centre on 0800 061 4276 or via email@example.com. We offer private ADHD assessment for children (and adults) and ADHD treatments. We will be open throughout the summer holidays.
Updated June 2021