I always have to laugh at my duplicitous emotions. I crave the days when we don’t have to be up early, be pushed by the demands of each class test or assignment, and hit the hay early to assure adequate sleep. Yet, I feel my pulse rate increase as I contemplate summer vacation. The lack of structure and increased demand of kids home all day can be stressful, especially with an outside job.
What’s a mom to do?
Can you relate to that feeling of panic as the school year threatens to come to a close?
When my 3 kids were younger, I would have grand aspirations for the summer months. “This year will be different,” I would convince myself. Still, every year August would leave me feeling like the days had gotten away from me. It seemed as if I was trying to herd cats. I would wonder, what did we really DO this summer?
It starts with your attitude
I will tell you that the remedy to this parental summer overload resides in our brains. Here are 3 ways to start improving your summer months merely with your thought patterns:
- Embrace the crazy – Since summer IS typically less structured, stop expecting it to be otherwise. Don’t fight it. Put a smile on your face by asking, “What will today’s adventures look like?” Half the fun of vacation time is that each day seems new and different. Enjoy it.
- Recall what makes your child thrive – Just because school is out doesn’t mean that you can’t still do things that worked during the school year. You can still maintain things such as sleep, diet, or therapy methods year round. Did you discover things in previous summers that were helpful? Bring those back into your family routine.
- Enjoy your son or daughter – I found that the more I tried to push my kids away to create margin for myself, the more clingy and needy they became. Fully entering into my time with my children has made summers MUCH better. I had to literally remind myself that despite the seemingly relentless demands of their health issues, family should enjoy one another’s company. We will never get these childhood years again. We should live like it.
Adjusting my attitude was just the start. I learned that there WERE things that I could do to make the months that school was not in session much more enjoyable. Here are just a few:
- Do certain activities on certain days. When my kids were very young, we did story hour at the local library. We always sat towards the back of the room because of my youngest’s dysregulated behavior, but that changed over time. During the summer months, our library incorporated more activities with reading, such as making homemade bubbles. We rarely missed a week. We had other specific activities planned on other days. This helped us build a structure and rhythm into our summertime.
- Seek out places built just for kids with special needs. We are THRILLED to have a new place in our area called The Sensory Club. This members-only facility offers self-directed time to get every sort of sensory input your child. From a dim room with bubble lights to a gym with swings and climbing apparatus, a facility like this really, REALLY helps kids like ours during those unstructured summer months.
- Look for accessible playgrounds. We loved being part of our community build-out of Imagination Station, a fully accessible playground for kids of all abilities. Working a visit to these playgrounds onto your weekly schedule can be an enormous sanity saver. Plus, the social interaction in the outdoors is priceless.
- Find camps and VBS that bolster your child’s faith. Many of us work hard to get our child a scholarship to and attendance at a diagnosis-specific week at camp. However, there are also amazing camps and vacation Bible school opportunities around the nation if you look for them. Christian Disciple Farm in Sullivan, Wisconsin, serves our entire family. Joni and Friends has family camps in various locations. And some local churches are stepping out to offer VBS just for kids with unique abilities. Those experiences can make for incredible summer memories.