For some, school holidays are an exciting time, full of opportunities for fun. For others, the change in routine and unpredictability of the coming weeks can cause anxiety and stress for children and their carers. Some ideas for a more enjoyable school holiday are below, inspired by the Edmonton and Area Fetal Alcohol Network’s blog Additude: Parents’ best boredom-beating, brain-boosting summertime tips

Create summer routines and schedules. Don’t wait for your child to ask for direction. Post a weekly schedule of planned activities, along with blocks marked out for free time. List everything — from casual, open-ended activities, like reading or time on the computer, to structured ones, like cooking together. These tips for creating a healthy routine could be valuable for families with FASD. In creating routine charts and other visuals, taking photos of your child doing an activity and using that image in your visual charts is most effective.

Include daily exercise in your routine. Studies show that exercise has a strong beneficial effect on executive functioning and other brain functions. Exercise can be fun – it might be riding a bike, swimming, running on the beach, playing sport, or anything else your child enjoys. The exercise will help boost your energy and mental health too.

Try summer activities that spark creativity and boost self-esteem. They should satisfy your child’s natural curiosity about the world and encourage inquisitiveness. Walking a nature trail or doing art-and-crafts projects are good options. Children gain a sense of fulfillment and personal pride from acquiring new skills.

Plan for at least one success a day. Make sure your child gets to do at least one thing they’re really good at every day. It could be creating something out of Play-Doh or playing an instrument.

Give your child a say in their weekly planning. If your child is able to make decisions, involve them in planning weekly activities. Their choices might be to swim, ride a bike, read comic books, or watch TV. They might even want to schedule in some helping time, like participating in household chores.

Schedule in “family fun”. This shows your child that you want to schedule time just to be together, building their self-esteem. Activities can include playing a game, going on a family outing, or having a special movie night at home.

Give them time to dream. Even the most energetic kids need downtime. Help them find a hobby for quiet times, such as keeping a summer scrapbook or starting a collection — of photos, drawings, bugs, bottle caps, whatever. If your child wakes up slowly, schedule dream time in the morning and save structured activities for the afternoon.

Be kind to yourself! December can be the most difficult time of year for families living with FASD. Accept that you may have bad days, and where possible schedule time to look after yourself as well as your loved ones. NOFASD’s page on caring for yourself has lots of ideas for maintaining health and energy, and also webinars presented by the mother of a child with FASD.

All of us at NOFASD wish you a happy summer holiday, and a Christmas as relaxing and joyful as it can be for your family’s circumstances.

Read more NOFASD Australia blogs

Read a mother’s blog about preparing for Christmas

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