When Summer Vacation Doesn’t Feel Like Vacation

(The Importance of Maintaining Routine During the Summer, Part 2)

I recently wrote a blog about the importance of maintaining routine during the summer months. Routines are important for all children as they create a sense of safety and security, allowing children to thrive.  However, routines can be essential for children that struggle with things like anxiety, ADHD and those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

For parents that have children with these struggles, summer vacation can often feel like anything but a vacation!  With the loss of a structured school day, these kiddos can be more prone to tantrums, behavioral outbursts and feeling anxious.

Here are some tips to help your child be more successful at home over the summer months:

  • Create a visual schedule

For kids that need predictability and can struggle with transitions, having a schedule that outlines what’s next can ease that anxiety.  Keeping things like mealtimes and bedtime similar to what they were during the school year can also be helpful.

  • Maintain (or create) a behavioral system

Summer can seem boundless and boundary-free.  It is important for children to have clear expectations. Choose 2 or 3 positive behaviors that you would like to nurture over the summer and provide positive reinforcement – sticker charts work great with younger children!  Try to ignore negative behaviors as much as possible. This reinforces the concept that desired behaviors will be rewarded and poor behavior gets them nothing– not even negative attention.  Maintain limits and remain consistent. If your child is allowed 30 minutes on the tablet, set a timer and stick to it!

  • Mimic home routines when traveling

Changes can create disruptions and, at times, over-stimulation.  Keeping things as consistent as possible when away from home can help reduce distress.  This may mean packing preferred snacks, or cooking while on vacation, instead of eating out at restaurants.  Even while traveling, try to maintain consistent bedtimes and morning routines.

  • Give your child time to adjust…and be prepared for some tough times

It can be a shock for your child to transition from the structure of a school day and perhaps 1-on-1 support, to being at home.  Expect a few bumps at the start as everyone adjusts to this change. And even with the best-laid plans, your child still might have some regression over the course of the summer with behavioral outbursts. When this occurs, stand firm, and remain as calm and consistent as possible. And allow yourself some grace, as you cannot plan for everything– or avoid all displays of negative behavior.

  • Find support

Parenting a child with a developmental, emotional or behavioral challenge can be isolating.  It can be difficult to see other children having play dates, or going to camp if your child cannot.  Make sure to care for yourself. Hire a sitter and meet up with friends for coffee. Or ask family for help.  Join an online support group with other parents that “get it.” Caring for yourself gives you the opportunity to be your best you, so that you can continue to provide the best care for your child.


For additional strategies and information, please visit Child Mind Institute


Rebekah Jones, LPC

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