For school-aged kids, summer is a time of freedom and exploration; a time to stay up late and go on adventures. It can also be a time of dysregulation due to the loss of a schedule and routine. And with dysregulation comes tension and stress for you as a parent.
That does not mean, however, that you and your child can’t have a wonderful summer break together.
When your child does act out, it’s important you act in a way that teaches them, rather than strictly punishing their behaviors. It’s about laying a foundation of trust and teaching your child to make choices. Your goal is to teach your child to use words, not actions; to find their own voice; to talk things through with you and to build relationships and attach to you and others.
Here are four tips to help manage your child’s behavior in the summer:
1. Understand actions
A lot of young kids struggle with impulse control or self-control. With all of the free time summer brings, this may be heightened while school is out. For a number of reasons, including possible prenatal exposure or orphanage/foster care, adopted kids can be more at risk for challenges with control.
When your child exhibits signs of trouble with impulse control, it’s important to distinguish a “can’t” from a “won’t.” Further, many times children’s negative behaviors can be improved by checking the basics. Is he hungry, tired, hot, cold, lonely, angry or bored? Summer vacation often throws off the typical eating and sleeping routines our kids are used to during the school year. Plus, a hot kid can become an incredibly irritable one! Or is your child simply misbehaving? Depending on the culprit, think about what tools your child needs to help him with self-control.
2. Manage the environment
Sensory issues, which can also be typical in adopted kids, often lead to behavior challenges. Regulating your child’s environment can have a tremendous impact. With the many possibilities that summer vacation brings, adopted children may be overstimulated when in new environments, including while on vacations or at camp.
Pay close attention to what your child needs. Some kids need a boost and a little extra stimulation to become more engaged. Others need something that helps them slow down and take a break.
3. Less "no"
Instead of saying no, try “I’m not sure we can go out to breakfast today, but we could make waffles at home,” or “we could go to breakfast this weekend.” Find choices that are acceptable to you and present those as options. This not only avoids the “no” answer, but it helps your child with decision-making skills and builds an understanding of making good choices.
4. Positive reinforcement
Remember to praise your kids when they are making an effort, even if they do not get it 100 percent right. Make sure they know you notice when they’ve changed a behavior. Or if they are struggling in one area and really succeeding in another, make sure you acknowledge that success.