I Know what you are thinking, "I'm not ready yet! What will we do with the kids when they get out of school?"
Just as they become accustomed to their schedule at school, BAM! They are home all day every day. Now they have to get used to a different schedule. They don't like change, AHHHHH! Transitions are hard for most of our kids to handle. Planning for that will help you to have a smoother time together this summer.
Some of you may be worried about the big vacation you've planned knowing it may be overwhelming to your high-risk kiddos. Fearing what behaviors will need to be managed on the big trip triggers anxiety and fear in you. Do we go? Do I stay home with the child who will struggle and allow everyone else to go? No, that feels like a punishment. But if he or she goes, it will punish everyone else. What to do?
First - stop and breathe.... (in and out).
Mindfulness is a big key to a healthy parenting journey. Breathe and capture those thoughts and feelings of anxiety. Name what it is about. What is the trigger? Is it not knowing how to handle the behaviors? Is it worrying what other people will think when you are out in public? Are you even wondering if you will be stuck in your house all summer because you are afraid to take them out because of their poor coping skills?
Once you name what your own fears are about, you can start working on a plan. Try to be proactive about the things you know will be hard for your kids this summer. Here are some suggestions:
1) Create a summertime schedule - your kids need structure, so provide it for them. It might be helpful to make a poster that includes wake up time, breakfast, activities, appointments, snacks, etc. It helps them know what is happening each day. If they struggle with control issues, this can help them to process ahead of time what the day will look like. Don't forget to transition them to new activities with verbal cues. "In 5 minutes we will be going to the pool. What do you need to be ready?" Help them process what it takes to move to the next activity.
2) Be mindful of their physical and emotional needs - strategically plan times for sensory integration activities. Pinterest is amazing for ideas! Don't forget they need food and hydration at least every two hours to keep their brains on track. If you see a meltdown coming, ask yourself, "Has he or she eaten or had water lately?" Be careful not to overload their schedules. Too many transitions from one thing to another can cause emotional escalations. Try to catch low levels of dysregulation. If you see it coming and acknowledge that you see they are having a hard time, you might prevent a big blowup.
3) Use this time for opportunities to CONNECT - summer is a great time to build in personal time with your kids. Take the extra cuddle time in the morning if you don't have to be anywhere. Play games and take the time to just BE WITH. A clue to secure attachment is being emotionally present to your children and providing a sense of being with them. By doing this you send the message to your child, "I see you. I know who you are. I cherish you. I DELIGHT in you."
4) Always have a Plan B - have a contingency plan even when you go on the big trip. Plan out what to do if you all go to Six Flags and one of your kids can't handle the noise or the crowd. If you see a meltdown starting, can you tag team with your spouse or another adult that is with you? Or do you have an older child that can take the other children on a ride while you help the melting child to calm? Know what it takes to calm your struggling child. You can be proactive by letting them practice calming strategies when they are feeling safe and well-rested. Let them try different exercises, textures, sounds and techniques. The ones they choose the most, keep in mind when they start coming unwound. You can use these strategies with them when they cannot think of what to do. Remember, you may have to regulate for them. They need you during this time. Then when they are able to calm, plan with them what will happen next. If they can rejoin the group, get right back on track. When it is over, it's over!
They have enough shame to fill an ocean. They don't need the reminder that they have disappointed you and possibly ruin a trip for everyone else.