Most children are delighted to have summers off, no homework to worry about, looking forward to lie ins and playing with friends. However, for parents the summer months can often be rather challenging.
All children thrive with routine and structure but children who are experiencing difficulties with their emotional wellbeing, for example highly anxious children, can be especially dependent on routine. Without that structure children can become more stressed and anxious, which then impacts on their behaviour. Managing this along with other pressures that can come along in the summer means it can actually be a particularly difficult time for parents.
Here are some tips for keeping the summer as relaxing and enjoyable as possible.
Maintain a schedule
It helps to maintain a daily schedule as much as possible. It can be very tempting to let your children stay up late and sleep in, for example, but in the long run, sticking to the same schedule pays off by keeping your child more comfortable, and therefore more cooperative.
Try to schedule activities for children to look forward to. This doesn't have to mean any expensive days out but simple things like going to the park or maybe a day visiting family. Activities can be a great distraction for children from any anxious or negative feelings they may be having.
Talk to your child
It's helpful to identify what makes your child anxious. Talk to your child about how they are feeling and think about strategies to help them when they are feeling that way.
Maintain rules, boundaries and consequences
Despite some children thinking that summer should be a carefree time were rules should be looser, the truth is children like knowing what you expect from them and the rewards that come from good behaviour. Try and stick to the rules and boundaries you would normally have at any other time.
Make it visual
Children who thrive on routine tend to panic when it comes to transitions. They might benefit from being able to see what they will be doing daily. Get creative together and make a calendar they can refer to, they can make it colourful and draw pictures to help them remember too.
Some children will feel more comfortable in a home environment, especially if they have sensory issues or struggle with social interaction, but outdoor play is also very beneficial for children. Physical activity is good for everyone's mind, body and spirit!
It can take children time to adjust to new routines. If they are anxious in social situations gradual exposure to new experiences can relieve children's anxiety about them.
Prepare for some tough times and seek support
Sometimes even the best of plans don't work out but try not to worry, it's unavoidable that these things happen at times. If your child's behaviour becomes challenging be firm but fair and try to remain consistent. If you are struggling, it's okay to reach out for support. Talk to friends and family or call Parenting NI on freephone 0808 8010 722.