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​​​Monarch Expert Shares Strategies to Make the Most of Carefree, Summer Fun

iStock 672419640Ahhhhh, summer.

As children take their last bus rides of the school year and get ready to toss backpacks to the side, parents are remembering all the wonderful things the next season brings with it such as sleeping in, breaking from routines and chasing fireflies, just to name a few.

For most of us, it is a welcome time of year. For children afflicted with emotional or developmental issues and their parents and caregivers, it can present challenges to scheduling and keeping their kids on track.

It can be an anxious time for those with mental health issues such as anxiety, ADHD and autism spectrum disorders, according to an article from Child Mind Institute. For many parents and children, the school year allows for a routine and a sense of what comes next, while carefree summer days follow a more laid-back approach to everyday life.

“From past experiences, parents know there will be an adjustment period to summer break. The fact that no school allows a relaxed routine and fewer expected scheduled events may prove to be a source of added stress and possibly anxiety for young people,” explains Monarch Psychologist Amanda Matthews. “Parents may in turn feel uncomfortable if they sense their children are experiencing stress or anxiety. This can cause parents to doubt themselves or feel overwhelmed.”

With a bit of preparation and trial and error, parents can make interesting summer memories for their children. Matthews shares several tips that might help make the most out of your freedom from packing lunches and endless carpooling to school events.

Plan for success, keeping to your schedule as much as possible.
You know your child best. Plan around their unique tastes and interests, as well as schedules to which they are accustomed.

“Consider offering your child two options of an event to participate in during the day. Both options should be able to be completed, even if other events during the day are in flux,” suggests Matthews. “Young people may appreciate that the event is one that has been chosen by them, and that no matter what, it will occur. Parents are in control of the options, but the young person is in control over which of the two options will be completed.”

Take advantage of the ability to experience sites and events not normally accessible during the school year.
Take advantage of programs, sites or events held only during the summer months in your area. If possible, involve your child in deciding where to go or which events they prefer. What would they like to see or experience during their summer break?

“Making your child an active participant in the planning process helps him or her take ownership of your adventure,” adds Matthews. “Wherever and whenever possible, have your child research the site or location you will be traveling to, as well as some interesting sites along the way.”

Keep in mind your child’s unique strengths and interests, and provide time to adjust.
Keep in mind the size of crowds, time of day and any special accommodations that might be needed. If you simply ask, many location staffs are happy to oblige and make an experience for your child the best it can be.

Getting out and about during the school break can avoid a sense of isolation. Matthews explained that parents and children with IDD may feel a sense of isolation during the summer months: “Parents of children with IDD often work hard to support inclusion of their children in school activities, but, if they feel that there is a significant decrease in informal or formal supports during the summer, they may feel more alone than ever during this time of year.”

Relax and breathe.
All kids have meltdowns at one time or another. “Parents, don’t let one issue or breakdown ruin an outing or event,” says Matthews. “Make sure you keep in mind your child’s triggers and what might prompt him or her to not fully enjoy an outing.”

Don’t be shy! Ask for assistance or help in adjustments to an outing or event when you need it. “There are always alternatives that will work if Plan A doesn’t. It just takes a bit of preparation, research and planning,” adds Matthews.

The goal is to make the most of your time with your children and maximize their experiences. “Most of all, enjoy all that summer has to offer because time is fleeting and school supplies, lunch boxes and new shoes will be on the horizon before you know it,” she notes.

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