Summer is supposed to be fun, laid back, more relaxed, and spontaneous! However, it can be a tough time of the year for some children. Children function better with a consistent and structured schedule, and younger children in particular can benefit from some summer structure to reduce meltdowns. So before you or your child get overheated, here are some ways to turn down the emotional heat!
- Cool Calendar
Although summer is a time of fun, and schedules may be more unstructured, making sure your children know what to expect can help reduce anxiety and improve positive behaviors leading to a happier, more relaxed summer. Schedule some planned activities or trips and be sure to share these plans with your child ahead of time. Some children (with or without special needs) might need more visual support, so marking activities (camps, trips, family functions,) on a family calendar and adding pictures or photos is a great way to prepare and let your child know what to expect of their summer break.Once you have a plan try not to change the schedule (unless of course there are unusual circumstances that can’t be prevented). Sticking to the schedule will eliminate the “But Mom” moments, such as this one, “But Mom, you promised you would take us to the pool today!”Don’t forget to schedule in some down time. Children need time for creative free play and to learn how to entertain themselves without always having an adult lead every minute of each day.
- Set the Stage
Now that you have some ideas of places or people you want to visit, and activities to do, set the stage before you ever leave the house. Communicate expectations in a clear and concise way. Setting the stage means getting prepared with specific expectations and limitations. For example, if you and your family are going to a family function and you know your child is going to beg you to spend the night with someone or will not want to leave make it clear before leaving. Set the expectation.Here is one simple example of setting the stage: Does your child scream and cry in the gift shops for the overpriced memorabilia? Have you ever given in to eliminate the tantrum in a community setting?
For a trip to the zoo you might say, “At the end of the visit we are going to the gift shop, and here is your money to spend. You cannot spend more than this amount. If you do a great job shopping and no crying you will earn your summer pass for our next activity!”
- Praise the Positive
Make sure you acknowledge and reward positive behaviors in the community, with friends, and family. Set up a simple positive support plan where your child can earn an activity of their choice or a pass to the next scheduled activity. It could be something as simple as a sticker on a small chart or a small token. If your child has great behavior, praise the specific behavior that you appreciated.Specific praise in the same zoo gift shop setting: “I liked how you used your amount of money and found something you could afford. Although you wanted the large gorilla you found another cool toy and made a great choice.”
- Avoid Heated Arguments and Stay Calm and Consistent
Children will try to negotiate and argue to get what they want. So once you set the stage do not argue back and forth with your child. If they try and pull you into an argument, simply remind them of the positive support plan and walk away (if you can) or change the subject. If neither work, just keep quiet, but do not give in. Children need boundaries and feel safer when parents are consistent and calm. Some children know just what to say to push your buttons and get things heated quickly.
With these four simple tips you and your child can keep summer cool!