Ah summertime—longer days, no school, and hours upon hours of free time at home. It’s the time kids await all year. Yet for parents of children with reactive attachment disorder (and other difficult behaviors), summer is usually the time of year they dread the most.
During their summer breaks from school, these kids … quickly wear out their parents with controlling and disturbing behaviors—all day, every day. Just like the rest of the year, kids with reactive attachment disorder require constant supervision. That 24/7 responsibility falls solely on parents in summertime.
As a parent of a child with reactive attachment disorder, it might feel easier to cater to your child at all costs to avoid meltdowns. Or, you might plan to spend the whole summer at home to avoid chaos and embarrassment in public. Yet, neither option is good for your family. It’s not healthy for you or your children—including your child with RAD—to allow him to control or sabotage the summer for everyone else. You’ll need to find ways around the chaos for the wellness of your entire family.
Here are 8 tips for a better summer for your whole family with a child with reactive attachment disorder:
- Continue your child’s medications, neurotherapy, or other helpful routines that work for him during the school year. Remember that these measures can help with quality of life and aren’t reserved just to keep him on task during the school year.
- Determine whether or not day camps are appropriate for your child. Typical summer camps and other organized activities aren’t always an option for kids with reactive attachment disorder. Camp program staff usually can’t handle children with reactive attachment disorder. Also, kids with reactive attachment disorder often come home and expect their parents to constantly entertain them like the camp staff does. That’s because these kids don’t handle indulgence well and feel entitled (similar to reactive attachment disorder kids during the holidays).
- Consider summer day camps if you believe your child and the camp staff can handle it. Camp can offer valuable respite for you as a parent. If it’s a viable option for your child, you can look into the YMCA, The Boys and Girls Club, or other affordable options to keep your child active while you take a break.
- Even if camp doesn’t work for your child with reactive attachment disorder, register your other children. Remember that your other children need a break from their sibling with developmental trauma too.
- Enroll your child in volunteer opportunities to build skills and boost self-esteem. Look for summer volunteer opportunities. Many county offices, churches, etc. need help from older children and adolescents to clear trails, build outdoor facilities, etc. Unlike typical summer camps, your child will stay busy and build self-confidence. Likewise, you won’t have to face the issues that result from entitlement after regular camp days. Most county programs require spring applications so start your search now.
- At home, create structured activities and consistent routines to keep your child busy and feeling safe. Read tips on how to keep your child with attachment disorder busy this summer.
- If you want to take a family vacation, only take short trips with quick access back home. A child with reactive attachment disorder can quickly ruin the fun for everyone on long trips.
- Take a break for yourself through informal respite care with other parents. Find or start a parent support group in your area. Other parents in your situation will understand your child and have the capacity to care for him briefly—long enough to give you a chance to rest a bit. And then you can return the favor for other parents.
Summertime brings additional obstacles for parents of children with reactive attachment disorder. If you plan ahead, however, the season can be a little less traumatic for your whole family. Remember, taking care of yourself and your other children are just as important as caring for your child with reactive attachment disorder.
From the Institute for Attachment and Child Development (April 2017)