While kids may be overjoyed for a reprieve from the confines of the routine and structure of school, parents are likely to be less thrilled.
Instead of being in the care of their teachers every day, children now get to spend lots of time at home- which may be a daunting prospect for some parents. This is especially true of parents who have children with problems like ADHD, ODD, anxiety and even the spectrum disorders like Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.
However, vacation should not be stressful for parents or children! While no two children (or families) are exactly alike, most can benefit from the successful 6, a list of especially tailored “do’s and don’ts” for children with learning and concentration difficulties, but also applicable to parents of children with other behavioral or emotional problems as well.
Don’t let go of the established routine and rituals.
For most children, vacation is a time when they can let down their hair and all that boring routine of the term time can go out of the window! While this is okay for some children, those with concentration and behavioral problems need routine and structure in order to provide a safe and predictable framework within which they can operate. Depending on the age of the child, try to maintain the usual bedtimes, bath times, mealtimes and even the same routine (e.g. bedtime stories) as much as possible. Remember that these were probably difficult to establish in the first place and will be even more difficult to re-establish once you have let them slip. ADHD children do not cope well without structure – even if they fight about it! Without being completely inflexible, try to keep things as steady as possible. When you do have to break with routine, explain this clearly in advance to your child, including the reasons for the change – as well as the fact that things will return to normal the next day.
Don’t let diet go out of the window.
Try to continue the good eating habits (we hope!) you have established during the term. Vacation time often brings with it loads of candy, many junk food meals and TV dinners. While a break from ‘healthy food’ now and then is not the end of the world, remember that many ADHD children are especially sensitive to food additives and a high fat, high sugar diet. They usually do best on regular ‘steady energy’ or low GI meals. Too much junk food during vacation often leads to an over-stimulated system which could take weeks to settle down. Hyperactivity, ‘bad’ behavior, impulsiveness, aggression, mood swings as well as allergies are often the result.
Don’t overdo TV and computer games.
While we all know that moderation is best, it is very tempting to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ – especially when it means that kids stay out of mischief and a little welcome peace and quiet reigns for a change! Children who tend to have a short attention span or who cannot sit still are often surprisingly passive in front of a screen which seems to soothe and calm them. However, remember that there comes a time when all that pent up energy has to come out! Usually when it does, it is accompanied by uncontrolled, difficult and overactive behavior. Too much time in front of a static screen can also affect hand-eye coordination and weaken the muscles of the eyes as well as their ability to track moving objects and follow the lines of printed text in books. Weakened muscles in the upper torso will make it difficult for children to sit in their desks and write comfortably once they return to school. Hours of inactivity will reduce the amount of oxygen to the brain and therefore further affect cognitive activities like concentration and memory. Wise parents will provide a variety of active outdoor play, different non-TV indoor activities and reading – and allow their children to watch only a few selected programs on TV. While this applies to all children, it is particularly important for children with concentration and learning difficulties!
Do spend quality time with your child.
Children need quality time with their parents and now is the perfect opportunity! The more they are able to bond with you and with the family, the less vulnerable they will be to peer pressure as they grow up. Spending time with your children gives you the opportunity to show them you love them, to teach them the values and beliefs that are important to you – and to have fun with them!
Do encourage reading and fun-filled, yet educational activities!
Children with ADD/ADHD and learning problems need more practice than their classmates. Although they may be just as (or even more!) intelligent as their peers, concentration, perception, listening abilities and reading skills do not always come easily to them. Taking a break from the activities of the classroom may cause children with ADD/ADHD to lose ground and their hard-won classroom skills may become rusty. While it may be unfair to subject your children to schoolwork during their break, try to be creative! Use your imagination to provide different fun-filled activities which use the same skills needed for classroom work. Jigsaw puzzles, memory games and even card games all require concentration, focus and calculation. Take your kids to the shop and let them help you to add up the cost of the purchase – and then allow them to pay the cashier themselves. Bake cakes with them, getting them to measure out the ingredients. Get them involved in interesting art and craft work which needs hand-eye coordination. Provide exciting books to read as a special treat! There are many ways to keep kids busy with activities that are ‘good’ for them and which will help them to retain the skills necessary to succeed in the classroom!
Don’t stop consistent dosage of health supplements, herbal and homeopathic remedies.
Parents who have already chosen the natural route for their children often ask whether they should stop the herbal and homeopathic remedies during time off from school – to give their kids a ‘break’. The answer is no! Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, the natural ingredients in the remedies support health and functioning (rather than artificially suppress symptoms). Keeping your child on a regularly scheduled maintenance dose helps ensure continued support and effectiveness. If your child takes prescription ADHD drugs, consider using the vacation to try out natural alternatives! While you may not be able to see the results as easily as you would in a structured – or routine – classroom environment, you would certainly have the opportunity to have a good trial of the natural remedies and by the time school starts, they would have had time to reach therapeutic effectiveness.