Planning for a Successful Summer: A Guide for Parents

Planning for a Smooth Summer

I’m 19 years into my parenting journey, and as a mom 3 teens (two of which are neurodivergent), I can say that summer can be stressful. Sure, summer can be a wonderful time for relaxation and fun, but it can also be a challenging period of change for neurodivergent children. To help make the summer months successful and enjoyable (for everyone!), it’s important to involve your children in establishing clear routines and expectations. Here are some strategies to help you and your child have a great summer together.

Set Morning and Evening Routines

Having a consistent routine is crucial any child, but especially a neurodivergent child. Simple and easy-to-follow routines can make mornings and evenings smoother.

  • Morning Routine: Create a step-by-step routine for the morning that includes activities such as waking up, brushing teeth, getting dressed, and having breakfast. Use pictures or checklists to help your child visualize the routine. You can place these visuals in the bathroom or bedroom for easy access.
  • Evening Routine: Establish a calming evening routine that might include dinner, some quiet playtime, bath time, and bedtime. Again, use visuals to outline each step. This not only helps your child understand what’s next but also provides a sense of security and predictability, while building independence.
  • Tip: Involve your child in creating these routines. Let them choose some of the activities or the order in which they occur. This will increase their buy-in and cooperation, meaning less arguing or fighting about what needs to be done. I love using these Visuals for the Home.


Create a Child-Friendly Calendar

A child-friendly calendar can be a valuable tool in helping your child understand the concept of time and look forward to upcoming activities.

  • Visual Calendar: Use a large calendar that you can hang in a common area. Include pictures or icons for special events, daily activities, and routine tasks. You can use different colors or stickers to mark different types of activities. One of my favorite things to use for younger kids are post-it notes! I just write on them and line them up for the week. Monthly scheduels are great, too. If you have older kids who have access to an iPad or phone, try a digital color-coded calendar.
  • Daily and Weekly Overview: Every weekend, make time for a weekly review with your family to go over appointments or other weekly events. For older kids with access to an iPad or phone, turn on those reminders so they get a notification to remind them about events. Each day, spend a few minutes reviewing the day’s schedule with your child at breakfast or even the night before. This helps them know what to expect and can reduce anxiety about changes or surprises.
  • Highlight Exciting Events or Changes: Mark fun events or outings in advance, like visits to the park, playdates, or special family activities. This gives your child something to look forward to and can be a motivator for completing less preferred tasks. Alternativly, if your child doesn’t like change, let the know in adavance when there will be changes.

Tip: Make the calendar interactive by allowing your child to add stickers or drawings. This involvement can make the calendar more engaging and meaningful to them.

Set Expectations Together

Setting clear expectations can help manage behavior and reduce conflicts. Involving your child in this process can also make them feel more in control and cooperative.

  • Discuss Expectations: If appropriate, have a family meeting to discuss summer expectations. Talk about daily routines, screen time limits, and responsibilities such as chores. If needed, use simple language and visuals if needed to ensure your child understands. The big ones we talk about in my house (I have 3 teenagers) are sleep schedules, hygeine, and meals/snacks.
  • Create Supporting Visuals: Make a chart that outlines the expectations. Include tasks like helping with dishes, laundry, or keeping their room tidy. Depending on your child’s understanding, try using pictures or symbols to represent each task and what is expected. Menus showing different food options can help make meals simpler and support eating a varriety of foods.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Establish a system of rewards for meeting expectations. This could be earning stickers, extra playtime, or a special treat. Positive reinforcement can motivate your child and make following expectations more fun. When my kids were elementary age to middle school age, we used a point system. Now that they are teenagers and everyone is on their own schedule, we’ve moved to having one fun thing (simple as icecream or a family hike) week as a family to work towards. Behavior contracts work well for teenagers, too! These behavior contracts are from our Executive Function Course Toolkit (if you are looking to grow your understanding of your neurodivergent child or up your behavior strategies, check out our courses! They are self-paced and loaded with actionable strategies to help you and your child).

Tip: Be consistent with the expectations and the rewards system. Consistency helps children understand the rules and what is required of them.


By setting up simple routines, creating a visual calendar, and establishing clear expectations, you can help your neurodivergent child have a successful and enjoyable summer. These strategies provide structure, predictability, and a sense of security. Plus, they make the summer months more manageable and fun for everyone. Remember, the goal is to create a supportive and understanding environment where your child can be independent, thrive and enjoy their time off from school. Here’s to a great summer!


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