–by Lorraine Fuller
Summer can be difficult for parents of special needs kids. The schedules are different, it’s hot outside, and there is no school. Some parents don’t get a break.
I’m one of those parents. I used to love summer, but parenting a child with trauma and attachment issues has made summers difficult. Still, there are some things that might help. If your child can handle it, look into community activities such as day camps, Bible school, summer school, etc. Check with local schools, your city or county parks department, religious organizations, colleges, and libraries. Look online, too. Trust me. A break will be good for both of you. If these ideas don’t work, or even if they do, maybe you have a friend or relative who can handle your child and you can trade child care. I know a woman who keeps her friend’s children on Tuesdays, then her friend takes the kids on Thursdays. If you are a stay-at-home parent, talk to your spouse about giving you some down time.
While your child’s off doing his thing, make sure to engage in self-care. This means different things to different people. Take a moment and think about it. What helps you? What relaxes you and makes you feel good? It might be weekly chiropractic appointments, massages, or manicures. It might be going to the library or bookstore alone to read. It might be shopping. Or maybe it’s running or going to the gym. Some parents might want to go out for coffee or sit at Sonic with a Diet Coke reading Facebook. Others might want to hide in the bedroom watching Netflix. You might even take a class – cooking, pottery, art, Bible study, a college class, quilting, whatever floats your boat. Maybe you can borrow this woman’s tent to go hide out with your dog. There are no right answers here. All that matters is that it’s something just for you.
Even with all that, the going will get rough. So have a friend, another trauma parent, you can talk to. Even a quick text exchange can help. Sometimes humor helps too. You could make up a behavior bingo game, for example, where you put each of your kid’s behaviors or bad choices in a box, then check them off as they happen. You get a treat when you get bingo. It’s up to you whether the kids know about it or not.
Add in fun for the kids, even if your child doesn’t deserve it, even if the child tends to sabotage. Surprise them by having a watermelon seed spitting contest or water fight in the back yard. For some kids, surprising them is the best way to avoid sabotaging, others need to know specific details. You know your child best. Trauma makes it hard to make good family memories, but we need to try anyway.
My thoughts are with each of you this summer. I hope you get time to yourself, I hope you practice self-care, and I hope you make some family memories.