Now that the novelty of summer has subsided and the new school year is approaching, kids with emotional or behavioral issues may be struggling with problems such as over or under stimulation, anxiety, or feelings of sadness. Kids with ADHD may have been handling the beginning of summer well as there was the newness of the lack of structure, the fun of hanging out with friends, going to camps, vacations, and lots more time than normal on video games. However, these same kids may now be under stimulated as the activities have decreased, which likely results in them getting into trouble as they find ways to regulate themselves.
Kids with anxiety may have felt a huge sense of relief when the academic pressure disappeared, but now may be dealing with worries about the upcoming school year. Or perhaps they have been feeling anxious all summer due to not knowing what to expect each day or having to attend lots of new situations like different camps each week. Kids with depression may be struggling to get out of bed each day and experiencing little motivation or initiation. And with parents busy working or managing the household summer schedule, they may not be able to devote the necessary time each day to get them out of bed or actively engaged in life.
So what is a parent to do? Below are some strategies that can be helpful for kids with ADHD, anxiety, or depression; however, if you find that you’ve already tried these tips and nothing seems to help, please contact me for a free telephone consultation or to set up an appointment for additional assistance.
Establish a daily schedule. I often hear parents say, “It’s summer! I don’t want to have the structure of the school year, I want my kids to be able to relax!” While that is a great philosophy for some kids, it does not work well for kids with anxiety or depression. These kids need structure. Kids with anxiety need to know daily expectations as a way to reduce anxiety, while kids with depression need to get into a routine in order to motivate them each day.
Limit screen time. Maybe screen time isn’t allowed until later in the day or until all chores are completed. Or maybe screen time is limited to a set amount of time each day where they child can choose when to use it. However you and your child decide to do it, limit screen time! It is so easy for kids with ADHD to play video games for hours without even realizing it, but research tells us that this is not healthy for brain development. Kids, especially kids with ADHD, need to be fully engaged in the world and what better way to do that than running around outside where there are numerous sights, sounds, smells to take in and countless things to touch? Kids with ADHD need sensory input and they are not getting it from video games, and this lack of input will lead to lots of misbehaviors at home.
Enforce a regular sleep routine. I know it’s summer and that means staying up and sleeping in late, but when it comes to sleep, kids need consistency and a healthy pattern. Allow them to stay up and sleep in later than during the school year, but keep it fairly regular and within reason. Younger kids can adjust their schedule by about an hour and teens by about two hours. So if your 8-year-old goes to bed at 8:00 during the school year, his summer bedtime should be about 9. If your 15-year-old goes to bed at 10 during the school year, then he should be in bed by midnight. Also, please remember that electronics need to be shut off an hour before bedtime as they have a negative impact on our sleep cycle.
There are lots of other strategies that can be helpful so please feel free to contact me for further assistance. Enjoy the rest of summer!