“Mommy, I’m bored.”
“Tatti, there is nothing to do!”
While days off from school can be daunting for all parents with young children, for parents of children with ADHD, they can be thoroughly frightening. Children who have ADHD have trouble sitting still, focusing on one thing at one time, and attending to details. While their attention seems unfocused, it is actually multi-focused. Their mind takes in multiple stimuli at once, making it hard to engage in one activity for long periods of time. Therefore, entertaining children with ADHD all day can often feel like an exercise in frustration with children “bouncing off of the walls.”
You can be sure that summertime for children with ADHD means that they will become bored easily and often, and therefore will become demanding – of your time, energy, attention, and patience. So, what are some solutions to keeping your children (and yourself) happy and sane over Shabbos, Jewish holidays, and vacation?
Stick to routine. All children, especially those with ADHD, crave routine. Most families with children who have ADHD have a set morning routine in which the children wake at the same time, brush their teeth, eat breakfast, and pack up their book bag at the same time. Even though as parents we wish to vary the routine and let the kids hang out in their pajamas for an extra hour when they do not have school, this can completely throw off the schedule of children with ADHD. Therefore, keep the morning routine the same and instead of getting into the car for school, have another organized activity (either inside or outside of the home).
Keep a calendar. For Shabbos, this is not necessary, but for holidays and extended vacation (including Chol Hamoed), keep a calendar in sight so that your children can know what is on “schedule.” Knowing that they will go to the zoo on Thursday and bake challah on Friday will help keep them focused.
Have them create a collage of their preferred activities. On this collage, they can paste pictures of books they like to read, art supplies, their bike, friends they enjoy visiting, and other favorite activities. Then, when they start to complain that they are bored (or you notice their behavior deteriorating), tell them to go to the collage and pick out an appropriate activity for that day. They can also update the collage as their interests expand and change.
Make reading fun. Summer is a great time to get your children involved in reading even if he or she is a struggling reader. Take turns reading books aloud, get them appropriate comic books, and play word games like Scrabble and Bananagrams. This will help your children stay entertained and get them started on the right foot for the school year.
Remember that play is “work.” Playing is an important part of any child’s development as it strengthens muscles, improves stamina, and sharpens coordination. Play also provides a host of mental and social benefits. Games, sports, and make-believe encourage a child to feel and express emotion, and to develop skills, like problem solving and conflict resolution. Those skills are essential for both work and home. Therefore, try to incorporate play time in a controlled environment with other children in order to help them do a little “work” while they play.
Get outside. Interestingly, studies also show that kids with ADHD who spend time outdoors in a green and verdant setting – a grassy backyard or tree lined street – feel calmer and more focused than those who spend time in a more urban environment. So, get outside with your kids – take a “discovery walk” in a nearby park or even your street, turning over rocks and leaves. If you have a fenced-in backyard, you can also create a cave or a tunnel by draping sheets over cardboard boxes or chairs. This outdoor, imaginative environment will allow your child to jump, run and explore safely.
Avoid lines. Be realistic about expectations. Even if you think your child might love going to an amusement park because the rides would thrill him, plan your trip with the lines in mind. Therefore, either minimize lines with features like “Fastpass” or choose a day that you believe will have less of a crowd. In addition, when going to a restaurant, make reservations so that you can ensure quicker service.
Sometimes less is more. It’s not always about cramming in everything you can do in one day everyday during vacation. Sometimes, after a very full day, your child might need some time to relax. Beware, though, of expecting your child with ADHD to entertain himself on the quiet day. Instead, provide him with an activity that he enjoys that is not done at a frenetic pace.
Create a “chores checklists.” Often, children with ADHD just want to be engaged – even helping clean and tidy the house will keep the house happier and quieter. If you develop a list of things that can be done around the house and give small rewards for completing those tasks, your children will stay out of your hair and your house might also be more organized. This one sounds like it will never work – but believe me – I’ve seen it happen!
Parenting a child with ADHD can be a trying experience for any parent – especially when there is limitless free time to fill. However, with a bit of organization and planning – family life can be manageable – and maybe even fun!
About the Author: An acclaimed educator and social skills specialist, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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