Ah summer! We’re talking flip flops, sunglasses, bike rides, hanging by the pool, staying up late, catching fire flies, and then sleeping until we wake up the next morning. Nothing better, right? But when you’re parenting kiddos with special needs, who thrive in a structured, routine-driven environment, summer can spell disaster.
I get it. I’m the parent of eight children, three of whom have major special needs that range from sensory processing needs to hyper-activity and extreme anxiety. Three of my children have been diagnosed with alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder, which falls under the umbrella of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
For millions of families, summer break is all about staying up late, sleeping in, and hanging out by the pool, when they want, for as long as they want to. But for those of us parenting children with special needs, summer break can spell disaster due to lack of structure. How do you successfully navigate this season with children who thrive in structure and routine?
We would have drained our bank account to register our kids for every summer camp on the planet last year. We nearly did. Parents of normal functioning children may raise an eyebrow, or two, at that statement; even call us bad parents. But, unless you are in the trenches of parenting children from trauma, with attachment issues, or disorders like FASD, you don’t understand the enormous need for structure and routine.
For most people, summer break with their children is a time to head to the pool, take big family vacations, play with other children in the neighborhood, or sleep in. It takes on an entirely different form when you’re parenting children from traumatic pasts, or with major special needs.
I flip through my Instagram early in the morning before everyone’s awake. I can’t help but feel jealous of the pictures I see. One after another it seems. Perfect families, gearing up for perfect summers, with their perfect children. Yes, I know they’re not “perfect.” Everyone has their flaws. Everyone has their shortcomings. But from my vantage point, and the uphill climb I have every day, everybody else’s situation around me looks….perfect.