A Parent’s Guide to Surviving Summer

Summer has arrived and for the first time in 16 years I am not terrified. Finally, my two offspring are lazy teenagers who sleep until noon. I am SO grateful.

Only parents of boys (and maybe some girls) with ADHD will relate to how scary THREE MONTHS of unstructured time is. My two sons nearly managed to kill themselves and destroy the house and its contents every summer. And to think I once wanted six kids.

I remember one summer when the staff at the local emergency room actually started greeting us by name. “Well, if it isn’t the Richie family again.”

At the end of every school year I always wanted to smack those parents who said they were looking forward to a relaxing summer. Some of the most offensive comments:

“We like to snuggle up and watch movies.”

“We just sleep late and take it easy.”

“We are just going to hang out at the pool all summer.”

These are phrases you will never hear from parents of boys with ADHD. There is no relaxing. There is no taking it easy. There is no hanging out. There is only planning, scheduling, supervising (or paying the consequences of not supervising carefully enough), getting creative, getting desperate, bribery, and, if lucky, sleep.

So this summer, while parents of calm, bookish, crafty kids are sipping iced tea by the pool and patting themselves on the back for having such self-directed, goal-oriented, well-behaved children, parents of kids with ADHD will be in the battle trenches, trying to keep their children alive, their houses standing and their sanity intact while repeating, “use your indoor voice” and “keep your hands to yourself” and “Why did you take [insert item] apart?” about a thousand times per day.

If you are one of those parents with young, hyperactive, loud children, I sympathize with your plight. Maybe I can help. Here are a few things I learned from my years in the trenches:

1) Camp is crucial. Sign up for as many as possible. Can’t afford camp? Sign up for every vacation Bible school you can find. It doesn’t matter if you’re not Christian. You can de-program them later if you have the energy. A free three hours of play, songs, crafts and socializing that you don’t have to provide is worth the Jesus-y songs they will have stuck in their heads. By all means, look into other religious institutions that offer free camps as well. If the Buddhists or Jews or Hindus offer free camps, don’t pass them up. If your child is asked not to return to camp because he keeps fleeing the classroom and bolting to the parking lot to “give you one last hug” after you have already driven away, then see the tips below.

2) If camp is not an option, schedule the shit out of each day à la Super Nanny. Make sure to leave a long time for the things that keep the kids in one place. For example:

  • Bath time: Give the kids food coloring, baking soda, bath crayons, bath paint, bath stickers and, if small enough, the family dog. Make use of every kitchen utensil, too. Especially the baster. It can add at least 10 minutes to bath time. Ditto the vacuum hose.
  • Rest time: Even if the kids don’t nap anymore, rest time is crucial for your sanity. Never, ever abandon rest time. Set a timer if necessary. Add a few minutes a day. Bribe if necessary.
  • Reading time: Minimal energy on your part. However, if your kids are like mine were and won’t sit still for reading, let them build Legos while they listen or tickle their back while you’re reading. Or, if none of that works, drive around for reading time and listen to a book on CD. A few of our favorite authors to listen to: Jack Gantos and Robert Munsch.

3) Encourage your kids to talk to strangers. For example, when son #2 was six, he asked if he could dress up in his suit and tie and give gum to people walking by our house. He stood in front of our house offering sticks of Extra to passing joggers for at least 45 minutes. He chatted up every passing jogger or walker whether they liked it or not. “Excuse me sir, you look like you could use a fresh stick of gum.” Quickly he realized that many people had dogs so he added dog bones to his inventory and extended each interaction by a few minutes. Our local exercisers thought he was adorable. He used up about half of his loquaciousness for the day. I finished a chapter or two. Win-win-win.

4) Go to garage sales. On Friday and/or Saturday mornings, give each kid a dollar and tell them they can buy anything they can afford at a garage sale. Then go to a few garage sales and watch your kids learn the fine art of negotiation. Son #1 came home with an old stereo system once. He spent about three hours in his room taking it apart. That $1 bought me three hours of peace. On the other hand, son #2 wanted to buy an old bullet at a yard sale. Temper tantrum avoidance technique: give a list of buying rules beforehand and always include No Live Ammunition.

5) Recruit as many teenage babysitters in your neighborhood as you can find, but make sure to give them very specific rules in writing. Add to the list as necessary. One time son #1 talked a 15-year-old babysitter into letting him on the roof. “My mom always makes me check our roof for hail damage,” he said. “She’ll be mad if I don’t.” Never in a million years did I ever think my list of rules would include No Checking for Hail Damage on the Roof.


Son #1 with his potato cannon

6) Think twice before buying the book Backyard Ballistics because your budding engineer would like to build a potato cannon. Those potatoes fly HUNDREDS of feet.

7) Rely on TV for the most dangerous time of day: Dinner Preparation. One night, in the 20 minutes it took me to fix tacos, son #1 had fished an old toddler car seat out of the garage, drilled holes in the bottom, taken wheels off of a dolly, attached them to the car seat, tied a rope from the car seat to the back of his bike and convinced his younger brother to go for a ride. As I finished browning the meat, I looked out the window just in time to see son #2 strapped in the old car seat dragging behind that bike swinging from side to side in the middle of the street, grinning from ear to ear before biting it on a curb.

“Well, if it isn’t the Richie family again.”


42 thoughts on “A Parent’s Guide to Surviving Summer

  1. I just loved reading this! My sister and I, both single moms with 3 kids each, moved in together last August… 5 boys, 1 girl. This is our first summer with 6 kids in the house… I feel a little daunted for sure and have already been planning and planning to keep them all occupied! Reading this gave me such a laugh and was a good reminder of what is to come! We live in a big field… so I’m thinking to potato gun may actually be a good occupier 😉


  2. I have boys like this too. Since we homeschool, summer is just another season; but at least we can be outside a lot which makes life easier. I grew up with four sisters and I’ve had a very hard time learning how to cope with boy energy. It didn’t help that my oldest son was a quiet, calm kid- I thought I was such a good parent, what is all this stuff about wild boys? Well my younger sons have broadened my ideas about boys, that’s for sure.
    Glad you can relax a little now!


  3. I got in the shower the other day leaving my two boys in the living room. When I got out of the shower, there were 5 boys in my living room. Children multiply during the summer months – friends get bored at home, parents send them my way (we should have NEVER gotten the pool!!). But at least for now I will stray from the potato gun idea – too many grouchy neighbors!! Loved the post!


    • Ha! Yes, they do multiply. The last time that happened at our house the kids all got together and moved the trampoline closer to the tree house so they could jump out of the tree house onto the trampoline. Thanks for your comment!


  4. Mine don’t have ADHD but I do still have to follow the same rules (hmmm at that!) Very funny post. Luckily our Summer holiday is 6 weeks and doesn’t start until the end of July…that feels long enough 🙂


  5. Ha ha, excellent post. I agree that dinner prep is the most dangerous time of day. A few years ago, as I stood washing lettuce in the kitchen sink, a pair of legs suddenly dangled in front of me at the window. My kids had tied all our bathrobe cords together and were ‘escaping’ from their bedroom window!


  6. LMAO FINALLY!!!! Someone that speaks MY language–or that of my #2 child. A Born Destroyer! Often knick-named: ‘Glitch’ (kid in movie Wreck It Ralph’), STITCH; from ‘Lilo & Stitch’ for the absolute inability to build and only, “steal everyones left shoes & DESTROY (literally) Every Thing in Her PATH!!”
    She is not ADHD but, I AM, NOW; as a direct result of the incredible shift in my old ‘iced-tea sipping, book worm #1 child’…I am. Sleepless parent grinding teeth thru night terrors and minimizing the house damage on a regular. She manages to maintain ‘good’ behaviour at daycare but, at home… NOT! Anyway, i literally DO & Feel your pain & Plans already even down to small family dog see this: http://j9sopinion.com/2013/05/28/a-blue-bathtime/ I literally LMAO while walking & reading this post and i don’t know HOW You found my j9sopinion.com blog but I’m eternally grateful to find some empathetic moms out here in WP LANDS! xox J9


    • Ha! We definitely speak the same language! Read your bathtub post. Yup. We did the same thing. The kids love the color. I like to think of all the money we’ve had to shell out to fix all the broken things as the “ADHD Tax.” At this very moment I have a broken window that will cost $700 to fix due to a lacrosse ball incident. And the cost of drywall we’ve had to repair is definitely in the thousands. And yes, mine seem to behave beautifully at school and with others as well. Thank heavens for that! Perhaps we should write a book together about parenting little destroyers and staying somewhat sane!!! I feel your pain. 🙂


      • OMGSH –my teenage brother never caused as much damage as my 4 year old has to date! He and I sat down to tally it up; last time we checked was after the Brand New LCD 3D 42′ Screen TV ($4,000.00) was BROKEN by her simple toss of an EMPTY DVD case: $12,000.00 so far–NO ONE truly knows what we go through until they do themselves. We could definitely compose a book! Market: Wanna Be Teenage Moms title: ” a Dose of Real Live Birth Control –the Realities of Parenting!!!” LOL!!! 😉


  7. Pingback: NO Room for Judgement | j9sopinion

    • I agree with you. Daycare would be so much easier! Unfortunately, if you have a child or children that need a lot of special services, such as occupational or physical therapy, tutoring, etc. it doesn’t always work out to have a kid in daycare – or to work outside the home.


      • I think its just at our provincial level–maybe its mandatorythey provide one when needed. I dont know. I thought about this comment i made for days after. I didnt mean to insinuate anything, I hope I didnt. Opps! I have a big mouth sometimes! I was thinking since how skilled and amazing YOU ARE to have the ability to do this at home, on your own.


      • No worries at all – I didn’t take it any way at all except to wish I lived where you live where there are great daycares that provide occupational therapy! I bet you don’t live in America. Am I right?


      • Ah, Canada, of course! Maybe things are different now since my kids went to daycare over a decade ago. But in all the ones I checked out, occupational therapy was not an option.


      • I think its More for our location only because it is a center run by our region. So its almost Government funded..? Kinda thing. It makes their regulations and provisions different from the other local daycares.


      • And besides LOL I JUST found out Friday: I AM WRONG (see I admit it lol) … It’s very sad, she will not be getting an occupational therapist BUT, we will be teaming up with one to work on her ‘stuff’. They just provide the ideas and inspirations for the school and parents–they’re not there to assist and re-enforce ;( BUT, it is great timing bcuz she is remaining with this specific school/daycare for an extra year, INSTEAD of choosing full time school (public or otherwise); where she will have NO support, therapists, or the like geared towards learning disabilities ;( We are soo blessed by this school n opportunity bcuz it is one of the less expensive yet high quality daycares in our neighbourhood–it is that way bcuz it is run by our Region (like area province, state) … More regulations and rules to follow. They have thee longest wait list (1-2years) We got in 3 months due to my medical disability and childcare needs…I’m just so grateful she DOESN’T HAVE to FACE a public school right yet this September bcuz I couldn’t see it going well! I look forward to your decisions and updates Best Wishes!


  8. Pingback: A Parent’s Guide to Surviving Summer | Kids Belief

  9. haha love it! I have a VERY active son with a short attention span who is not even 2 yet so I can see our future looking a bit like this. I’m already needing to schedule the shit out of our days. Thanks for the great tips!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s