Medication Vacation

One topic that I’ve given a lot of thought to is whether or not my kids should have a drug holiday over summer vacation. According to Wikipedia, a drug holiday is not a modern version of Woodstock, but rather when “a patient stops taking a medication(s) for a period of time; anywhere from a few days to many months or even years if they feel it is in their best interests”.

If you’re considering whether or not to give your child her ADHD meds during summer, vacation, you’ll have to weigh pros and cons and decide if it’s right for your child. For example, medications can help your child succeed not only in school but also in social settings with peers, such as team sports, music or dance classes, church, and at home.   For our family, Snix and Dude take medication to help ensure their safety (more on that in a minute). Understood.org has a good article on medication vacations.  Don’t forget to talk to her prescriber to see if a medication holiday is appropriate and if so, how to begin it.

In some cases, it’s made sense for one of my boys to stop taking meds over the summer, and in other cases, it hasn’t. In my research, here are some things we consider any time we’re thinking of giving the kids a break from their meds.

  • Obviously, when a child goes off her ADHD meds, her ADHD symptoms reappear. That’s a no-brainer, but it has to be said.

This summer, we could have taken Snix and Dude off their meds; however, their symptoms are so severe that their safety (and my sanity) depends on it. Yesterday for example, they both ran out in front of a car in a parking lot. Luckily the driver was paying attention and was able to stop, but it could have been much different an ending. Safety issues like this are why the two of them take their meds to start with, and those issues don’t end when summer break begins. So a medication holiday is not an option for them.

  • Self-Esteem considerations are important, too.

The understood.org article doesn’t mention the effects on one’s self-esteem that the drug holiday can have on a child. When the child stops taking his ADHD meds, he may likely get into trouble more often, and we all know that getting in trouble a lot can have a negative effect on one’s self-esteem. Regardless of their planned activities over the summer, it’s important to consider that effect, too.

  • What side effects are bothering my child?

Verywellmind.com reminds us to consider the side effects.

Appetite problems and poor weight gain can be big problems for some children taking stimulants. If his medication is working very well for him otherwise, not taking it on weekends can be a good idea so that he does eat better at those times.

On the other hand, some children do have more side effects on Mondays after being off their stimulant for the weekend, as they get ‘used’ to it again, so be on the watch for that.

Between 4th and 5th grade, Buddy was on both a stimulant and a non-stimulant. He was too skinny and not growing taller as he should have been, and the stimulant was suppressing his appetite. After discussing it with his pediatrician, we decided to give him a medication vacation over summer break. He stayed on the non-stimulant but we slowly lowered his stimulant dose until he was no longer taking any. That summer, he grew taller and was able to put on some weight, something he’s struggled with since he was a toddler. For Buddy, it made sense, and paid off.

  • A drug holiday can let you judge how effective the medication is, after having used it for some time.  

Wikipedia also explains that another reason for drug holidays is “to permit a drug to regain effectiveness after a period of continuous use, and to reduce the tolerance effect that may require increased dosages.” The summer we took Buddy off his stimulant, we realized the non-stimulant managed his symptoms just fine. He started the next school year on only non-stimulant and was able to complete his work and participate in class, without his grades suffering. To this day, he takes the stimulants only on rare occasions or if we forget to give him the non-stimulant.

So, as you may have guessed, there is no right or wrong answer when deciding whether or not your child should teak a break from his medication. But think about WHY he’s taking it. Is it only to be able to focus in school? Does ADHD effect his relationships with family and friends? Will a lack of impulse control put him/his safety at risk? Is he experiencing any detrimental side effects of the medication(s)? After you consider these questions, if you decide to pursue a drug holiday, be sure to talk with your child’s prescriber. There may be specific, important, requirements to wean off the drug slowly. Whatever you decide, best of luck for you and your child!

 

Thrifty Ways to Banish Summer Boredom

If you have school-age kids, you know keeping them entertained over a long hot summer is difficult, on a good day.  But when you have three boys, ages 11, 6 and 4, all of whom have ADHD, summer can be downright AWFUL!  Camps can be expensive; sports take a lot of time and who wants their kids to sit in front of a TV or computer all day long?  My husband and I want to provide fun, budget-friendly activities for them, but how?  Below is a list of ideas and events we take advantage of, even if they only occur on weekends, because to a kid on summer break, every day is a Saturday.

  1. Many local libraries and bookstores offer free story times for kids.
  2. Home Improvement centers often provide free build days with kits for small items kids can build.
  3. Use your local $1 Store to stock up on things your kids like, such as books, balls, inexpensive toys, craft supplies, gardening items, etc.   They have all kinds of indoor and outdoor games and toys for kids, including water toys and games.
  4. Think of your local thrift store as your own lending library for games, sports gear, puzzles, toys, craft supplies, and books. Buy them inexpensively and when your child tires of them, simply re-donate them and buy something different.  We have stores with kids’ books for 25 cents each.  Books for older kids may be $2-$3, but still don’t break the bank.  (As a side note, we use this tip all year long, and for other things like clothing too!)
  5. Create a “laser” obstacle course in your home with crepe paper or painter’s tape. Tape the streamers to the doors and walls at various angles and levels and let the kids try to get through without breaking the streamers or pulling them off the walls.  For more information, visit: http://whatmomslove.com/kidsObstacle-Maze-PINTEREST
  6. If you’re a member of a local rec center, find out what summer activities they have to offer. Ours includes rock climbing, basketball, kids play time, and swimming, (all included in our monthly fee), in addition to various fun camps (most of which do incur a fee).
  7. Celebrate obscure but fun holidays with your kids. Timeanddate.com and many other websites keep a list odd holidays that you can enjoy!  Did you know May 26th is Paper Airplane Day?  Have your own paper airplane acrobatics show.  Make several paper airplanes in different styles and see which ones fly farthest or straightest.  June 14th is National Monkey Around Day.  Visit the park and play on the monkey bars.  June 29th is International Mud Day.  Make mud pies and get messy.  July 10th is Teddy Bear’s Picnic Day.  Subscribing to the site is free and you’ll be able to download the monthly calendars.  Ask the kids what they’d like to celebrate, and have them do the planning.

What are some other ideas you have for keeping your ADHD kids entertained over summer break?  Feel free to comment.  And don’t forget to follow/share us if you ever struggle with hyperactive kids!

Don’t let summer break get you down!

bored meme

For lots of families like ours, summer break is a great opportunity for us to relax a bit.  Dad doesn’t have to pack lunches; breakfasts don’t have to be eaten by a certain time; if the kids want to stay in jammies all day, they can.  And no fighting about whether or not homework has been done.

If your child has ADHD, however, summer break can be extra stressful for bored kids, and bored ADHD make for rowdy ADHD kids.  But how do you combat that if you work full time, like my husband and I both do?

To keep boredom to a minimum, I’ve scoured the internet for how to manage summer break with three ADHD kids, and here are some tips I found.

  1. Let Them Play, A LOT: According to http://www.ADDitudemag.com, kids need to be able to run, jump, explore, tumble and wrestle in order to work off some of that excess energy, and kids who spend time outdoors feel calmer and more focused than those who spend hours on the computer or on asphalt playgrounds.  Of course there are your typical sports, but don’t forget these activities that don’t take a lot of space, time, or money.  And even though it may not be ideal, some of these ideas can be done inside if it’s too hot, raining, or you simply don’t have a lot of outdoor room.
    1. Build a fort with some ropes tied to a fence, and sheets, or use tables and chairs (inside, outside)
    2. Use sidewalk chalk for hopscotch and/or 4-square
    3. Set up a sprinkler on a hot day and let them play. Don’t forget squirt guns.
    4. Have a dance party (inside, outside)
    5. Create an obstacle course with funoodles (inside, outside). Pinterest has great ideas for these that you could tailor to the size of your space and your kids’ ages.  And change them up when the kids get bored.
    6. Twister is always fun and physical, and can be done indoors or out
    7. If you have the tools and skills, build something together, like a tree house, dog house, skateboard ramp, toy box, book shelf, etc.
  2. Keep a Routine – Fastbraiin.com reminds us that while it’s tempting to relax bed times over the summer, especially for older kids and teens, that’s not always the best strategy. Consider letting your kids stay up an extra 30-60 minutes, but not till midnight.  Also, make sure they still get out of bed close to their regular school time as well.  Keeping meals/snacks to roughly the same time each day also helps keep the “hangries” away.
  3. Use a calendar – Plan ahead for things like summer camps, vacations, weekends with grandparents, day trips, and swim/sports lessons. For days where nothing outside the home is scheduled, plan the day in blocks of times.  What activities will they do in the morning? Afternoon?  Evening?  What chores should they do, and when?  For older kids who can mow the lawn for example, you’ll want to schedule that outside the heat of the day, early in the morning or after dinner.  If you plan an outside movie night, put it on the schedule for an evening after dark.  Plan a trip to the zoo, museum, park, swimming pool, trampoline park, library, river, lake, etc., and put that on your calendar well in advance so the kids have something to look forward to.
  4. Host a “Drive-in movie” night. Let your kids spend the week creating their own “cars” from boxes or laundry baskets and art supplies.  I found this photo at http://www.solagratiamom.comDrive-in for kidsThen let them pop popcorn, hang a sheet in the back yard for the screen, and show a movie in the evening.
  5. For older kids, replace school homework with HOME homework. I’m not talking about giving them busy work or tons of cleaning, but have them help the household by creating a menu plan for the week with their favorite meals or recipes they’d like to try.  Likewise, they can create a “menu” of activities they would like to participate in over the summer.  Older kids can be responsible for making your grocery list.  If you’re taking a summer vacation, have each child make a list of things they need to pack.  Older kids can even plan a day of activities for the whole family.  This lets them feel helpful and that they have a say in how they’ll spend their vacation.
  6. Another list idea is to have each child create a list before summer starts of activities they can do independently when they get bored. Post this list somewhere handy, and if your child starts complaining that they’re bored, ask them to refer to their list of preferred activities.  If you have an artist or a crafter in your house, make sure they have supplies to keep them busy.  If you have an avid reader, borrow lots of interesting books from your local library.  Many schools this time of year host Spirit week with things like “Crazy Hair Day” or “Messy Art Day”.  Let your kids plan a couple Spirit weeks for the summer.
  7. Don’t completely eliminate screen time, but don’t use them to fill in all your child’s free time. Instead of using screen time and electronic devices haphazardly, fastbraiin.com suggests regulating the amount of time children get to use them, and for what purposes.
  8. Take advantage when possible of local resources. Lots of bookstores and libraries will have free story times.  Some larger grocery stores may offer cooking classes for kids.  DIY stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s often have free build days for young kids.  Churches have programs like vacation bible school.  Museums, zoos, science centers, local gardens, etc., have free days, or camps and programs too.
  9. If your kids enjoy camping, let them pitch a tent or create a campsite in your yard. If you have a fire pit, use it for a weenie roast and to make s’mores.

So, take a few minutes to talk to your kids about activities they really like to do, places they’d like to go, things they’d like to see, etc.  Get them involved in their summer plans to ensure they’re a hit.   Just remember the sunscreen when you’re outside!  Next, we’ll talk about thrifty ways to eliminate boredom!  In the meantime, feel free to comment below fun ways you banish the boredom blues for your ADHD kids (or any kids in general!)