When the school year ends, kids are excited. They can’t wait to leave the hallways and homework behind. But despite the thrill of those summer months ahead, the transition can be hard. For kids who have learning, social and/or sensory challenges, this change in routine can be especially difficult and create unexpected problems.
To make things easier for you and your child, here are a few things to watch for. Try to plan ahead and manage things with some of these preventative strategies.
The Outdoor Elements
For some kids, the sunshine calls and they’re off. But for others, the hot sun is like kryptonite, zapping them of all their powers. These kids might drag behind, complain, and, pardon the pun, experience “meltdowns.” Loose cool clothing, hats, beach umbrellas, water bottles and shade are extra important for these kids. Other enemies, like bugs, sand, even grass, can also get heightened in the summer. Recognize what outdoor sensory elements trigger your child’s discomfort and come prepared. Find favorite things they can do to redirect their attention and calm them. Art supplies, special snacks, journals, or a favorite toy might do the trick. Special blankets to sit on, hand held fans, and bug spray are useful tools to keep ready for your bag of tricks.
New People & Places
Festivals, fairgrounds, vacations, family visits, cookouts and camp. So many fun things to do in the summer months! But interacting with different people, learning the social rules at new places, adjusting to a different schedule and routine, can feel disruptive and difficult. Help your child by preparing them for upcoming events and new situations. Create a visual or written schedule for the day, don’t force new friendships, and build downtime into your child’s day. In some cases it is helpful to create a code word or signal to use when your child feels overwhelmed or needs a break.
It’s great to not have the rigid schedule of school in place, but children still need a sense of their day to help them manage their time. Using a white board or notebook, make a schedule with things like free time, meals, chores, travel and screen time. Use pictures if your child is younger. Structure = security for most of us, so having routines in place makes a difference. And while bedtime might be later, make it consistent. Sleep is a priority for all of us! The whole family will manage summer activities and changes better if they are rested.
Summer is a wonderful season, especially in Rhode Island, but it’s okay if you don’t get to everything on your bucket list. Enjoy the little things every day. Give yourself and your child time to breath and enjoy each other. Your summer may not be 100% stress-free, but with a little planning, it can be full of special moments and family fun.
Anna Johnson, Head of School at The Wolf School, is a devoted, passionate educator with more than 17 years of classroom and leadership experience. She holds a BA and MAT from Brown University, and speaks locally and nationally on topics related to Complex Learners.