For Some Parents, Summer Is The Most Challenging Time Of The Year

For many of us, the kids are home for the summer, and we’re trying to make special memories and have fun.

We’re also likely looking for ways to balance work and childcare, self-care and schedules, and adjusting to a different routine until school starts again.

While every parent must make adjustments over the summer, some families face a more difficult challenge this season.

For parents who have a child with special needs, routine is essential, and summer vacation can throw a major wrench into the best-laid plans.

Children with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or other special needs may have already had a very difficult school year.  

For them, summer vacation provides no respite as they have to adjust to a change in routine that can be unfamiliar and frightening.

And for their parents, summer can be a worrisome time – finding specialists to help keep up skills, dealing with changes in social situations or adjusting to new caregivers, and losing support systems that may not be available over the summer.

Parents of children with special needs may have to spend months preparing for the summer break, and often experience increased anxiety and stress.

There may be a loss of income as one parent must stay home over the summer to provide the specialized care their child requires.

For children with behavioral disorders, any change of routine can cause an increase in symptoms – and very little time for self-care and decompression for parents.

Constant structured time is often needed, and these parents know full-well there will be little, if any, downtime.  

Family trips can be difficult, if not impossible, and the stress can put a burden on other relationships within the family.

What the parents of children with special needs want you to know is that summer vacation is not always carefree for them — or their child.

They may want help, but not know how to ask for it.  They may desperately want company, but don’t want to impose.  Or they may be overwhelmed and refuse your visits, but still need someone to listen.

If you have a friend or family member who has a child with special needs, reach out to them this summer.

Offer help, but don’t force it.  Call, email, or send a cheerful card in the mail to boost their spirits.  Bring them a meal, or offer to take the other kids out for ice cream.

Let them know that you’re there for them on their terms.  Be flexible with plans and be supportive.

If you are struggling over the summer, you are not alone.  

Our kids are all unique.  They all have different needs and require different forms of support.

Compassion and understanding, along with being available to listen, are the best gifts we can give these remarkable parents this time of year.

Do you have a child with special needs or have a friend or family member who may be overwhelmed over summer vacation?  What are your ideas for offering help and support?  Leave us your thoughts.