I don’t have to tell you! You get it! Because this is your life! Anytime there’s a change in schedule, structure, or routine with kiddos from trauma, there are issues. Major issues, in fact. Can you say “Dysregulation City?” And summer break is the biggest culprit. While traditional families are planning all-day trips to the pool, staying up late in the backyard, and lounging around the house all day the following day, you’re banging your head against the wall trying to figure out how to make each day work, while fighting your own exhaustion.
It actually fills me with compassion when I think about the fact that our children have gone from the day-in and day-out routine of school just a few weeks ago (after spending upwards of 9 months in the same routine) to a completely different schedule in the blink of an eye. Who wouldn’t be in utter chaos, right?
In fact, if I had to guess, I would say, you’re probably already at your wit’s end with break. So are your kids!
If this is you, and if you are already stressed, have no fear. We’ve got some simple, and easy-to-apply tips, that you can add-in regardless of how bad the dysregulation already is…. 🙂
- Remember routine. It’s easy to slow-fade from a structured, scheduled, and routine-based school year into relaxed, lose, or even a non-existent schedule when it comes to summer vacation. However, this is the time of the year where structure, schedule, and routine are crucial to achieving success. The goal is for both you and your children is to journey through summer break, not perfectly, but as peacefully as possible. But how? As hard as it may be, you must keep routine alive and well. Of course, the schedule will look different from the school year, but it must be just that…scheduled! You will find maximum success when your days are planned, there’s a set bedtime, set wake up time (if this is possible) and a crystal-clear game-plan the moment your family gets up in the morning. Our kids each have 3 things they must do each morning before we move on to the rest of our day (which includes some really fun stuff). They must put fresh clothes on, brush their teeth, and take their medicine. These are non-negotiables. At night, we stick to the same bedtime. Even on the weekends. Remembering routine helps our kids because they know what time expect each day.
- Bite-size over Mouth-fulls. This has nothing to do with diet (although we’ll get to that in a minute). This is about the timing of activities. The longer you spend doing something the more likely it is you’ll see meltdowns and dysregulation occur. Organize your time and your schedule in bite-size chunks of time over mouth-fulls. If you have do something that takes a long time, look for ways to break up that time so it’s not so long and monotonous. Technology is okay, but something that is more interactive would be our advice.
- Pay attention to diet. Summer break also lends itself to many unhealthy choices in diet. Who doesn’t love a good ice cream cone, soda, or milkshake? Not that these are wrong, but they need to be limited. High amounts of sugar and caffeine fuel out-of-control behaviors. Personally in our household, we have eliminated Red 40 and Yellow 5 food dyes, and high fructose corn syrup in all of our kid’s diets. After years of research and studying our kid’s behavior when they consume these ingredients, and when they do not, we are convinced that our children are the healthiest, and most regulated, when they’re not consuming them. We also provide tons of filtered water during the summer. We live on a farm so our kids are always running, and romping, and sweating buckets. We push hydration like the Home Shopping Network pushes dinette sets.
- Connection before correction. It’s easy, in the midst of your stress, to allow your emotions to get the best of you, or focus heavily on control. Especially if your child’s behavior is erratic or out-of-control often. And since summer can become very monotonous and drawn out, exhaustion occurs quickly. This is when you must remember to connect with your child before you correct them. Those long, hot summer days can make this hard to do. Not to mention the fact that you’ve probably repeated yourself 14 billion times already. If your child is dysregulated or melting down, first ask, “How can I help you,” before you jump to “What’s wrong with you?” You build a bridge, not a wall, when you do this. Fact is, while your exhaustion whispers, “Bad kid behaving badly,” the truth is, regardless of how long you’ve been parenting this child, he or she has still come from trauma, and that often leaves them in survival mode. They’re not a bid kid, behaving badly. They’re a traumatized child speaking and behaving out of trauma. Thus, it’s extremely important, to the best of your ability, to focus on connecting first, before anything else.
- Interactive activities are king. In fact, the more interaction the better. Movies are great, don’t get me wrong. I love movies. And while I’m not into video games, at all, they serve their purpose too. But these can become breeding grounds for boredom, and also major meltdowns. Seriously…try letting your kid watch TV all day, or play the Wii Gamepad, then disrupt that for dinner, or a different activity, and watch the crazy train pull out of the station. It’s important to swap out technology for interactive activities that engage their minds and spirits. Engagement holds hands with regulation. Remember that. They may not be a fan of every activity you plan, but interaction will bring needed focus to their brains.
Engagement holds hands with regulation
You can do this. It’s only June. The summer is not lost. And you can always change course, and start over, if you need to. But you must be proactive. You know as well as I do, that these tips will not happen unless and until you become intentional. So…go!
What are some tips you’ve discovered that are helpful to successfully navigating summer break? Share with the community in the comment section below.