School is out, which means days spent at the pool, park, and playground, soaking up sun and staying up late. For many kids, summer vacation is the highlight of the year, but for others- especially those with ADHD, anxiety, or autism spectrum disorders- it can be a disruptive change to an otherwise calming routine. This summer, focus on easy ways to make sure all kids - and parents! - stay stress-free with these tips.

  1. Keep a schedule. One of the reasons the school year is so convenient is the regimented schedule; meals, bedtimes, sports practices, and so on follow a fairly predictable routine. Summer can throw our schedules for a loop, so it’s important to maintain them as best as possible. Keep consistent bedtimes, even on the weekends, and look for activities that can give structure to a day; eating meals at the same time, attending the same story hour at the library, and even scheduling outside time can create the predictability kids need to thrive.

  2. Fill your days with activities. If your child isn’t attending camp, look for other structured activities to keep kids occupied. Libraries, parks, schools, museums, theaters, and other community-based centers often have free or low-cost events all summer, featuring activities for all ages and interests. Be sure to sign up early!

  3. Grow your child’s interests. Encourage learning over the summer by allowing kids to explore what they love. Local librarians can help kids find resources on everything from Fortnite to football, and with a little creativity, these topics can be turned into art, songs, or even just an afternoon of reading or talking.

  4. Stay in touch with friends. If your child has established friendships with classmates, make an effort to maintain them with playdates and group activities, even if your child doesn’t specifically ask for them. This will continue to strengthen social skills, as well as make the transition back to school easier in the fall.

  5. Keep a calendar. Visual cues are important for kids, especially if they struggle with transitioning between activities or with changes in schedule. Put a calendar in a central part of the home, and structure it to your child’s needs- anything from simple illustrations to detailed lists of what’s happening during the week and month. Make a point to regularly review the schedule with your child, especially when adding to or changing the day’s plans.

Plan for Problems. No amount of preparation will totally eliminate the occasional tough day. Role play before potentially disruptive events to help prepare kids, and allow for “break time” during busy or stressful events.