Setting Boundaries for Summer

summer days

Aaahhh, Summer. The school year comes to a close and parents start to dream about the days when schedules are lighter, pressures are less, and… THERE IS NO HOMEWORK!

Then reality kicks in. Most of our kids do have schedules in the summer. Even if they don’t, we know that structure can add value to the lives of ADHD kids (not to mention ours).  The question is what structure? And, how much? It’s summer after all!

Where do you put in structures, and where do you just let go? And how do you decide?  Here are some of the questions we have been discussing during coaches’ club sessions, and at my house, too:

  • Do I give my child a medication holiday?
  • Does my pre-teen need to be in a camp every week?
  • How much screen time should my kids have now that school is out?
  • Should my kids be doing chores every day?

A more “summer-like” way to make these decisions is to shift from rules to boundaries.  Rules are hard, fast, and narrow, while boundaries are more expansive, and have more play and flexibility.  Using boundaries lets you focus on the “how” more than the “what.” It also puts attention on providing what you do want, and keeping away what you don’t want.

Here’s an example.   Imagine you are trying to keep your dog close to your house.   A rule-based way to do this would be to train your dog to stay close to you, or to make sure they are always on a leash when they are outside. In a boundary-based system, you might put a fence around your yard.

How do you apply this same thinking to your summer family situation?  Here are some simple steps:

  1. Get clear on what you want.  How do you want the look and feel of summer to be? For example: You want your child to have a relaxing summer. You want your day-to-day life to go smoothly.  You want them to have creativity, brain stimulation & physical activity every day. You want them to be safe and happy.
  2. Understand why it is important to you.  Look at what’s underneath. For example, part of why you might want your child to have less screen time is to have more time for physical activity. If your child is active during the day, s/he sleeps better at night.  If s/he sleeps better at night… (well you know that story.)  Having a nice looking home may be a value to you.  Hard work and accomplishments may as well.  Asking your kids to help do some light cleaning every day would honor both of those values.
  3. Structure around what you do want (Rather than what you don’t):  If you want them to have at least an hour of physical activity or creativity, schedule it.  If you want them to straighten their room each morning before they head out, make it part of the morning routine. Then… leave whatever is left over up to them.

Other things to remember

  •  It’s ok to do things for yourself:  Sometimes you set boundaries for your kids because they make your life easier, and that is perfectly normal (and OK).  Yes, they are on vacation, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help you around the house.  This is particularly true if you aren’t on vacation, as well.  There are days that I require my son take his medication simply because I know I’m going to be busy and won’t have the patience to help him manage through his increased distraction.  This is practical, not selfish.
  •  Be a role model:  If you tell your kids that physical activity and creativity are important, and then spend all your free time playing on Facebook, it sends a mixed message.  I’m not saying you can’t have your down-time as well, but be transparent about it.  Mom is going to spend 30 minutes “relaxing” on the computer and then we will get started cooking dinner together.
  • Do it together:  Find ways to engage with them since they do have more time.  Learn something new together each week, take turns choosing what to watch together on television.  You can stand 30 minutes of ninja cartoons and they might learn from Bobby Flay that cooking can be fun.

Above all, enjoy the summer!  Schedule some down-time for you, change it up, and take it a little easier on yourself.  After all, you deserve a break, as well!

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