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Crafting a Balanced Summer for My Neurodivergent Family


We're a few days away from May 1 and summer will be here before you know it.

My oldest is now 13 so I've been doing this summer mom thing for quite awhile and I've learned a lot along the way as to what works best for our family.

I'll never forget the camp I signed my oldest up for on a friend's recommendation thinking my son would LOVE it just like her kids did. It was not cheap. And it was not close. But she assured me that it was her kids favorite week of the entire summer.

After the first day, he did not want to go back. At the time, he was 8 and he couldn't fully express why but he just really didn't like it. It continued to be a daily challenge for the entire week and we were so conflicted as to what we should do as his parents.

Now we know that this child is on the spectrum but then we didn't and we didn't think to evaluate the noise and chaos level. We thought it sounded fun and were so surprised that he had such a strong negative reaction to the camp.

On the last day, my husband and I went with him for family day. The meeting room was large and dark and they was extremely loud music. Many kids loved the energy and intensity but my son did not. And being completely honest, my husband and I were both completely overstimulated after about 15 minutes.

We immediately understood what our son had trouble articulating and understood why this camp that was so loved by other kids was not a great fit for him.

We had very similar experiences with him with every VBS we tried. Anything big, disorganized that felt like glorified babysitting was really, really not a fit. Getting the three hour break was not worth all of the effort it took to get him there. Not to mention that it was really supposed to be fun for him and just really wasn't.

And yet, I'm a working mom. I work part-time hours and am in control of my when and how much I work but I deeply need the creative outlet and the income from my business.

So, I've had to get creative and over the years landed on a few key insights that help guide me as I make plans for myself and my kids for the summer that might help you as you work through your plans for the summer.

1. My kids need a break and enjoy the slower pace and lighter demands of summer.

We homeschooled for several years and in 2022 made the switch to full time public school. My kids have done great at public school and they love their school and their friends. They are also homebodies and really love the down time of the weekends, of breaks and of summer. My two boys (13 and 9) especially love being at home and they actually don't want me to plan 1,000 activities outside of the home. I've learned to let this be okay and not compare myself to the moms on the internet with the elaborate bucket lists.

2. Summer gives us a chance to renew our family rhythms.

Soccer season is just coming to an end and for the last few months, we haven't been able to have consistent family dinners. We haven't been going on family walks and our family movies nights have been less frequent. We try and focus more on those things in the summer and enjoy being together as a family. Summer is a great reset and time to recover from the busier months of the year. We try not to add extra evening commitments so we can do more family dinners, family walks and family swims.

3. Very selective camp participation.

My kids are 13, 9 and 5 so finding a camp that works for all three of them, is pretty much impossible. My younger two will attend two weeks of small bible camps with several good friends at the very beginning of the summer. This will give me a little break and they want to do these small camps. Bigger VBSes with hundreds of kids are just a hard pass for us. I am looking at one very specialized (aka EXPENSIVE! ha!) camp for my oldest to attend around his particular area of interest. We'd rather invest in something that's going to feed his interests and give him a really neat experience. 

Driving my kids to different camps every week requires a lot of Executive Functioning and I've decided that the hassle of that is just really not worth it for us. They'd rather have mostly low key days and time to play with their friends.

4. Updated weekly flow

I update our weekly rhythm before each season and having a clear plan for how our weeks will look really helps. With my first child, I thought I needed a fun activity our outing every week and lots of things to keep us busy. The older my kids have gotten, the less this is the case. We definitely need a routine and it helps my kids to know what to expect but I feel much less pressure to be captain fun creating thousands of core memories to fill every day. I will ask the kids what outings they want to do but we usually keep it pretty simple. I try and incorporate maybe 1 or 2 new experiences every summer rather than trying to work through a huge bucket list. I've found that have a clear weekly flow has made it easier to have the energy to do the special outings. It's also taken the pressure off of me from feeling like I need to plan lots of activities and outings. 

As you may notice, we lean on the YMCA a lot during the summer. My boys will exercise with me and my youngest will go to childcare. It really helps us anchor our days and get good exercise. It's kind of my personal sanity saver and my kids really like working out there as well. As we live in Florida, having an indoor option is great. 

5. Think Outside the Box

Some of the favorite things we've done as a family of the summer have been the smallest out of the box ideas. We watched all of the Marvel movies in order when I was pregnant with my third. We got really in to water coloring last summer and did that all the time. This summer, we plan to have "French Fridays" in honor of the Olympics and make a French recipe every week. I pulled together a list of recipes and french themed movies for us to watch. 

6. Set Realistic Goals

I'd love to tell you that I'm able to work 20 hours a week during the summer but I've realized that's really unrealistic. I've been working like crazy to automate as much as of my business as possible over the last few months. I've blocked off a few hours and I plan to get myself out of the house at least two of those days to avoid interruptions. I'm also looking at renting a studio space for recording. I understand that these kind of hours aren't possible for everyone but I realized years ago that I needed a job with this kind of flexibility. Full time childcare just isn't a good fit for our kids and I too appreciate a slower pace. I've had to make tradeoffs for sure and scale back some of my personal goals for the summer months. I've been ramping up my Youtube lately but have decided to hold off until August to really pick that back up. 

7. Hire Help

In general, I've found that it's more beneficial for me to hire a babysitter to watch all three kids for a chunk of time instead of driving them all over God's green earth for 3-4 hour camps. I'm more productive, it's much more cost effective and my kids are happier. I've had a consistent babysitter for the last several years and set up specific weekly schedule. Having one consistent schedule means less decisions to make and less to think about on a daily and weekly basis. For a few years, I had a babysitter that would take them all to the neighborhood pool to give me a few hours in my home alone each week. I've also hired mothers helpers to come and play with my youngest and keep her busy and had family members take them at specific times of the week. 

8. Collaboration is Key

I typically like to take the kids to do something kind of fun on Fridays. But without fail, my kids always complain about whatever fun thing I've planned for us to do. Whether it's bowling, the beach, or going to a movie, they are going to whine and not want to go even though they will have a great time. Including a few friends is key for me to actually get out of the door and follow through on my plans despite the whining and complaining. It also makes it way easier for me! I typically create a schedule for the summer and then share it with a few friends to see if they want to join us for any outings.

Want more support as you prepare for summer with your kids? Join me inside the Master the Mundane Community. I'm hosting a Seasonal Planning Session on Thursday, May 2 all about summer planning. I'll share step by step what I do to get organized and wrap my brain around summer and then host a body doubling session to help you do the planning you might otherwise procrastinate.

Join Master the Mundane for the training, support and accountability you need.

Get My Customizable Giant Summer Planner to help you get organized for summer with your neurodivergent family.


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