Are you thinking …ahhh, summer - no school, no homework and no routines! Then reality hits! Meltdowns are common in the holidays and exhausting for your child and yourself. It is scary to venture out of home in case there is a big meltdown in public. Anxiety levels can rise and your happy child often ends up grumpy, stressed, and fighting with siblings. We know that summer can be a difficult time for some children transitioning from school to summer break.
Does your child thrive from predictability and structure of a school day? It is one part of their day that is less overwhelming and enables them to have the energy to deal with all the social and sensory exchanges that overwhelm them. Repetition and stability of a school timetable helps your child self-regulate and keep their anxiety levels low. However, we know there is freedom in routines and choosing a summer routine can help your family survive those long summer weeks, so everyone can have an enjoyable break.
If your child struggles with change, remember to teach them how to adapt their plans. Together, you can devise a list of change activities to do for when it is needed. If you have organized a beach day and it is rainy and stormy, it is not going to be fun for anyone. Going to the museum may be a better option, but try telling that to your child! Sometimes they will feel angry and upset about a change of plans, and that is ok. Work through and talk with your child about their emotions and help them to move towards the new activity. Practicing this will help teach them how to manage and reduce their meltdowns. Please remember to add the cancelled outing back on the schedule! It is also a great idea to talk out loud when this happens to you, so your child can hear how you deal with a change of plans. You will find that they learn and develop a sense of resistance from your modelling, so they can keep calm when a transition occurs. Try it and see how they go.
It is so easy to be lax about screen time in the school holidays. After all your child loves playing on the computer or watching TV and it gives you some much needed time to yourself. However, it is much better to keep your expectations the same as any other school semester. Remember to limit screen time to help your child regulate the aggression that often comes from too much intense screen time. It doesn’t matter whether it is the computer, TV or iPad time – your child will eventually display negative behavior from overuse of screen time. Keep these expectations as close to your normal routine, so your child will stay the loving, kind child that you know they normal are. Stick to your usual routines with chores and behavior expectations and watch your child blossom within the freedom of routines.
As you spend more time together in summer holidays, you may find you need a break because your child constantly presses your buttons! It is easy to slip into negative or sarcastic talk. You are constantly answering their questions and chattiness. Perhaps your child can’t play on their own and occupy themselves, so you never have a minute alone to drink your coffee! If you find yourself in a negative spin, take a break - the toilet works wonders! - and re-set. Then come back and change your talk to be more positive and less hostile. Instead of saying ‘NO’, you may start to say, ‘yes, when we have done this first.’ Find ways to keep your tone upbeat and remember to tell your child how much you love them.
Use a reward chart or star chart to help your child see and remember their good choices. Try and find moments when your child is displaying positive choices and verbally reward them with your affirmations. It is good to aim for at least 4 praises a day, which may be hard for you to find at the start of the holidays. As you see them transitioning to a new activity without a meltdown, showing flexibility with their choices, or doing a task when you ask – praise them, give them a sticker and ask them to place it on their chart. Set a reward to celebrate your child’s good behavior choices. This might be a special activity together, a treat like an ice cream, or even a memory like a dinner out as a family. Some children will cope with a set number of stickers, whilst others will manage a set time, like 5 stars for 5 days and then the reward. You will know your child’s commodity and what is valuable to them.
As you develop and maintain these 7 Strategies for Summer Smiles, the transition from school to holidays will be filled with lovely memories, happy family times and a deeper respect for your child.
Enjoy your summer break and let me know how you implemented these tips.
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