Health and Wellness Parents

Helping Parents Support Their Teens

When you think about summer, what comes to mind? Swimming, relaxation, sunshine, vacation, family, BBQs, and no school are among the thoughts that might pop into your head. What is usually not on the list is structure. Yes, the dreaded word for neurodivergent individuals and families who want to enjoy the summer with less structure and more freedom.

Here’s the rub. Removing structure and routines during summer break can make daily life more chaotic. Consider a teenager who has routinely risen from bed at 7 am, completed a self-care routine and taken their ADHD medication with breakfast, usually before 8 am. This teen is ready to launch for the day regardless of their level of excitement about attending school. The teen’s body and brain are in sync and allow them to proceed with more focus and confidence. Granted, the process may not be as smooth as it looks.

Now, shift to the summer. There is no set bedtime or wake time scheduled for the teen. The structure has been removed. The teen rises at 11 am, maybe completes a self-care routine and may or may not take their daily dose of ADHD medication. By mid-afternoon, the teen is just hanging around with low energy and motivation to move forward, even when friends call. Their body and brain are not on the same wavelength.

  1. Choose a later sleep and wake time with your teen. A two-hour extension is a good option.
  2. Discuss with your teen how they function with and without medication. Would it benefit them to continue to take the meds daily? Consult with the prescribing physician for advice.
  3. Schedule chores and social time with your teen throughout the week. If the teen is working or taking a class, that helps create a framework for building in those activities.
  4. Use a 15-minute pickup. 15 minutes to clean their bedroom, common areas, dishes, followed by a 5-minute stretch break to refocus and repeat the strategy as needed to complete the task. 
  5. Explore options for daily exercise and have fun.

While it is understandable that teens need time to rest and re-energize when studies are finished, continuing with an unstructured routine can wreak havoc for them and the family. Summer offers the prefect opportunity to experiment with new approaches and refine existing ones, all while enjoying a more relaxed routine that still has the structure that is needed.

Summer is a great time to foster growth and create positive experiences. Here’s to a happy, successful summer.

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