5 Tips for Parenting Kids with ADHD During Summer

Summer Parenting with ADHD Child

As a psychologist and a mom parenting a child with ADHD, summer brings a mix of emotions. The school setting is not always the easiest fit for kids with ADHD brains. Homework battles, lost assignments, and calls home can be stressful for them and for parents. I breathe a sigh of relief when the end of May rolls around!

At the same time, summer brings with it less structure and routine, which can turn summer relaxation into a behavioral challenge.

Here are a few tips that have helped us survive in the summer wild west.

Set Your Own Routine and Expectations

ADHD brains generally thrive on structure and clear expectations.

As working parents, we utilize fun and structured summer options like camps and other childcare programs to help us when they’re available and affordable. Our son knows what to expect, and also expects that he’s going to be able to engage in activities that stimulate fun and excitement, which ADHD brains love!

When home, it can also help to have a general schedule and, when possible, predictable routines. Maybe we decide that Tuesdays are going to be pool days or Thursdays are going to be park days.

This routine and predictability include bedtimes, even if they’re later than they would be during school. When ADHD brains don’t get sufficient sleep, they are even more prone to emotion dysregulation and difficulty with self-management. This can definitely bum out a summer chill.

Build in Opportunities to Flex Executive Functioning Skills

Any parent of a child with ADHD knows how easily kids can get “hooked” by dopamine-releasing activities. We also know how trying to get kids to disconnect from these activities can be ripe for blow-ups.

For us, it’s screens.

Summer is an especially great time to practice disconnecting while also helping kids to build and utilize their executive functioning systems (where ADHD brains tend to be delayed).

In our case that means we give a particular screen limit for the day, and then we give him the responsibility for managing it. When time is up, it’s up. It helps him learn in real time how to self-manage something challenging for him. It also puts him in the driver’s seat such that he is the one in control of that time.

Additionally, we build in opportunities to earn more screen time for engaging in activities that ADHD brains don’t love, like anything that is tedious or boring (read: chores).

Rewards and Make them Snappy!

I can definitely understand parents who feel icky about rewarding specific expected behaviors. I also know that ADHD brains respond very well to rewards, especially when they are delivered rapidly after the desired behavior.

What that means is I’m not going to offer ice cream at the end of the week if my kiddo does extra chores. Ice cream is happening that day or immediately after.

Some kids with ADHD struggle with perceiving time and setting up reward systems that are distant in time is often equivalent to setting them up for failure.

Get and Stay Active

Did you know that exercise is actually well-supported as an adjunct treatment for ADHD? That means it helps amplify the effects of standard treatments.

What it means to me is that I encourage as much outside, active time as possible.

Not only does it boost dopamine and norepinephrine, two of the main neurotransmitters that are deficient in ADHD brains, but it often gives kids opportunities to engage socially.

Don’t Forget Your Friends

Speaking of social skills, many kids with ADHD struggle in this area due to difficulty reading social cues and managing impulses. Ironically, in order to build these executive functioning skills they actually need more experience in social situations where an adult isn’t constantly hovering and correcting.

It’s easy to isolate or fall into the vortex of video gaming over the summer, but I try to remember how summer might be the best time for my kiddo to get lots of social exposure in less controlled environments.

We do our best to encourage playdates, park visits, and just hanging out in the front yard with neighbor kids.

For those parenting kids with ADHD, what tips would you share with parents raising kids with ADHD during the summer months?