Summer Tips for Parents Raising Challenging Children
Tom and Julie Meekins
March Forth Family
It is summertime and most likely schedules are changing. This often puts our children who have challenges in a rough spot and us parents in a truly tough spot. So what can you do to help soften that blow and create a more peaceful summer season? Here are some tips for you:
1. Schedule a planning time for you.
Take time to sit for a few minutes and think about your summer.
First, take time to list all of the things about your life that really are non-negotiables. For example, work schedules, your children's nap or rest times, any therapies you currently need for your child, meal times and snack times, and whatever is best for your particularly child/family. Every child is different. Every family is unique. Put these firmly into your summer schedule plan.
Secondly, list the activities you would like to include in your "free time". That is the time over and above the non-negotiables. For example, playground time, craft time, camps, visiting the zoo, some academics to keep minds fresh, family vacation. Think about your child and what experiences you would like to give him or her.
Thirdly, list the skills you would like to work on with your children this summer. Now is a wonderful time to do the activities and exercises we talk about in our webinars and in our classes on our website to open new pathways for your children so they can grow in their development. We'll give you a few ideas below to help with gross motor and sensory development below and ALSO we invite you to our webinar: "Summer with My Challenging Child - Making it Wonderful"
Fourthly, list several ideas for YOU to recharge. You work hard. You are often if not always on high alert. You need time for you. It is not being selfish, it is not only survival, but you will be a better parent if you get refueled in a way that works for you. For example, schedule time to read a book if that relaxes and refreshes you, or go out with some friends to a ballgame, coffee shop, ice cream parlor, or to the movies, take long hot baths, sit in the sun by a pool or lake. You will most likely have to schedule this because in the day to day for most families raising children with challenges, there is always something going on. You need to be purposeful. We encourage you to put this in the non-negotiable section of your summer planning list.
2. Prepare your child's thinking for the changes ahead. How? Consider these tried and true ideas:
a. Prepare digital recordings for them to listen to throughout the day and while they are sleeping. What would these recordings look like? You would make the script in first person as if the child is saying these words. You would make the recordings that are to be listened to during the day 3-5 minutes long. You can also make recordings for the child to listen to while he or she is sleeping as well. The scripts could go something like this:
"It is summertime. I love summer. Summere is a time where I get to do some new things and some old things. Sometimes we will get to go to the pool and swim. Sometimes I will eat breakfast and leave the house for an outting. Sometimes I will stay home. When I stay home the activities I do will sometimes be the same and sometimes they will be different. When we go out, there will be lots of wonderful new things and some things I am used to. It is all wonderful. It is all safe and good."
Always keep the scripts very positive. Whatever you want the child to be thinking -- the truth you want him or her to understand -- is what you will put in the script. This is not brainwashing. This is teaching. This is inputting truth.
b. Prepare visual charts that have variables. Perhaps you will have a chart that shows a list of things with pictures or photos if that is helpful to your child that happen when you stay home. You may have other charts that despict some possible things that could happen if you go to the zoo, or to the pool, or to the park, or to some other activity.
c. Play games with flash cards. Prepare a card with each of the different activities you will be doing during the summer -- use photos, pictures, words --whatever gets the activity across. You may have a card with a picture of the zoo, another one with a pool, another one with a playground or park, another one with academic books, another one with craft supplies, another one with your child or a child taking a nap, etc. Pick the cards for the day that will make up your child's day or if you want to give your child a choice, have them pick one or two activities they would like to do. Place the cards on a Velcro board or mount them in a place where the child can see and refer back to.
3. Implement activities and exercises that will not only keep your child fit but also do great things for and in his brain. Summer Activities to enhance your child's development:
- Cross Crawl and Cross Creep
- Swing on a swing
- Scratchy glove time
- Massage time
- Log Roll
Each of these activities does is critical and important for child development. We set up an obstacle course with the crawling, creeping, swinging, and log rolling time and then finished it up with scratchy glove and massage time, but you can add these to your schedule in a way that best fits your family.
Sometimes parents are a little concerned about what summertime means for their family as they raise a child or children with challenges. We always embraced it as a time to work on child development, social skills, life skills and to remediate some academics that are falling behind or enhance the ones the children had a high interest in.
Redeem your summer and embrace it with purpose.
If you would like support in helping to set up your summer to optimize it for your child and your family, consider our Webinar: "Summer with My Challenging Child - How to Make it Wonderful" and we also invite you to think about private coaching. We would love to coach you as you begin your planning and and implement your ideas.
Tom and Julie Meekins