Should You Feel Guilty For Dreading Summer Break?

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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For most people, summer break with their children is a time to head to the pool, take big family vacations, play with other children in the neighborhood, or sleep in. It takes on an entirely different form when you're parenting children from traumatic pasts, or with major special needs.

I flip through my Instagram early in the morning before everyone’s awake. I can’t help but feel jealous of the pictures I see. One after another it seems. Perfect families, gearing up for perfect summers, with their perfect children. Yes, I know they’re not “perfect.” Everyone has their flaws. Everyone has their shortcomings. But from my vantage point, and the uphill climb I have every day, everybody else’s situation around me looks….perfect.

Three days left. Let the countdown begin. Three days left of the school year and then I step back into my prison cell. I know that sounds extreme, maybe even a little harsh. But when you’re raising a child with a major special need, like Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, extended time at home with them feels like that. It’s not that I don’t love my child, it’s just…down time never produces anything good. He needs activity, structure, and consistency. While summer break brings lots of the first, not so much with #2 or 3! Therefore, I dread. This long Memorial Day Weekend has already given me a glimpse of what’s to come- meltdown, boredom, and really bad choices.

Guilt upon guilt.

I used to feel guilty for thinking, and feeling like this. I would keep my thoughts myself, not sharing them at all. “I need to suck it up and put on a happy face about summer,” I would tell myself. I even went so far as to convince myself that things would be different each time. And then they weren’t. Often, they were worse. Eventually my hopefulness gave way to full-blown dread. I hated it. But I couldn’t escape it. In my mind I pictured the meltdowns, outbursts, violent tirades that surely were to come, and shiver. I didn’t want to face it and I didn’t want my other children to have to walk through it either.

Plus, this was my son I was talking about. I love my son. A parent shouldn’t dread spending time with their own child, should they? But that’s exactly what I wrestled with. We had so many times of peace, but the meltdowns and outbursts cast a dark shadow over them. Love and dread were locked in hand-to-hand combat from mid-April to the end of May.

Was there any way through this?

Facing the elephant in the room.

After years of feeling like this, we started to take action earlier on, before the summer arrived. We realized that our lack of planning was leading to a lack of structure, which led to full on collapse once summer arrived. Here’s what we did, and what you can do to…

  1. Google as many camps as possible. We literally sat down in late April and began to Google the heck out of camps in our area for our children to attend. Fact is, they all need structure to some degree. Our oldest son needs extreme structure, all the time, everyday. But our other children can surely benefit from it as well. Our Google search produced lots of results. We compiled a list and began to check out each one.
  2. Put your child in as many camps as possible. Once we compiled the list, we began to register them. The good news is that many were lower cost or free. That’s what you need to look for. We know how cash-strapped families like ours can be. In the age of the internet you can find lots of good options at a low cost. VBS programs at churches are a dime a dozen and they are really good.
  3. Structure each day. If camps or VBS programs are out of the question, and it’s homebound for you, be as structured as possible. Plan your entire day. From sunup to sundown. Wake up time to bedtime. The truth is, none of us really do well with downtime. Boredom sets in on any of us, special need or not. A structured day helps us all and it makes the day go faster.
  4. Stop feeling guilty. Stop it! I know why you feel guilty, but you need to let it go. It’s never easy to feel an emotion like dread over something that supposed to be happy and good. But the reality is, your child and mine are not like other children. He or she has a special need that causes behaviors that are out of your control. And, he or she needs structure. With children who have FASD it’s not just important, it’s a must. They need structure. They need consistency.

Our son will immediately jump to saying “You just want to get rid of me all summer,” when he finds out about all of the camps and events he’s going to over break. That always heaps the guilt on. But I’ve realized something- We’re doing this to help him. We’re registering for these camps because we know how difficult downtime is for him. That’s why he thrives during the school year, when he consistently goes to school, and follows a structured routine.

Recently we sat down with him and shared our plan for the summer. We walked him through each camp he was going to, and shared that we were doing this for his own good. “Buddy, you know that you need routine and consistency. You know that downtime equals bad outcomes for you. These camps are structured but also a lot of fun. You’ll love them,” we shared.

He agreed with us. At 13 years old he has become keenly aware of his disorder and what it can produce for him if he’s in a situation that lacks structure.

It’s taken years for us to stop feeling guilty over dreading summer break, or Christmas or Spring break for that matter. But facing our child’s special need head on has helped us. We’re committed to doing whatever we need to do to make sure that he has a good summer break.

Are you facing this with your child? What has helped you navigate these tricky waters?

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.