Summer Camps Are Not All Fun and Games for Kids with ADHD
It’s that time of year again when you will be shipping us off to Summer camp. Looking back at my own summer camp experiences, I both cringe and smile. Kids with ADHD have the same challenges at camp that they do at school and it’s not all fun and games. Think about all the new rules, new kids, unclear expectations, excitement and anticipations that all can blow up on an ADHD kid pretty quick.
I was sent home from at least two camps that I can remember
It would be great to know what to watch for to have the best chance at a great camp experience. After all, it is their childhood we are talking about here.
For my mom, I know it was a much appreciated break to have us kids away for a week in the Summer doing something other than sitting in front of our computers or gaming consoles. I have to give her credit – she tried real hard to find camps where I would fit in. I think that is the first thing to consider. Give your kids a choice on where they are going to go if at all possible.
I did computer camps, scout camps, taekwondo camps, YMCA camps, leadership camps, play in the forest camps, drama camps, music camps and Summer school disguised as Space Camp. To be honest, I pretty much hated them all but I’m glad I went, they helped me grow and learn mostly with social skills on what not to do.
The best part of camp for me was coming home. I had a hard time fitting in and not getting into trouble. Knowing what I know now about myself I have some advice for parents and campers to have a more enjoyable experience.
Involve your kid in picking the camp. Don’t try to oversell something you think will be great. Just because another kid in the house loved that camp doesn’t mean every kid will. Plan early and pick the camps together.
Maybe hold off on sleep over camps a little later than non-ADHD kids. I was not ready the first time I was away for a week and it put me off week long camps. Apparently, kids with ADHD mature later so take that into consideration when planning to send your 10 year old out on a full week away adventure camp of a lifetime.
Find camps where there is a lot of creativity and freedom. This is our summer to break free of the routine and boredom of school. Look for camps that have maybe a little less structure and more time to just be free and play.
Talk to your kid about setting realistic expectations. I wanted to go to computer camp to learn how to program Minecraft mods, instead we worked on robotics that I wasn’t really into. I’d say go with a more open mind, don’t have your expectations super set because you may end up being really sad and hate it.
Have an “out” plan. I was so traumatized by a camp “volunteer”, who looking back was only a few years older than me, that I needed to come home. I didn’t feel safe, I was an emotional wreck, and was making bad decisions because I could not regulate my behavior. Make sure you have a way for your kid to reach you if they need to some home. (then let them because forcing them to stay would be the time they really can get into trouble)
Camps can be great when you have a plan. I loved the games when the entire camp played together and building forts in the forest for hours and I loved coming home. Talk to your kid, listen and together everyone will have a great summer.
Last thing, make sure the camp leaders know your kid has ADHD and that if anything comes up they are worried about to call you and not try to punish them or exclude them before talking to you. Also, if they are taking medication the camp counsellor needs to know. I had started a new medication one summer and was sleeping on the floor at leadership camp and was punished for being disrespectful, they did not know that in that case it was a medical emergency and they should have called my mom!
Ask your kids about their camp experiences, share if you have some advice that worked that will help others kids, we are in this together.
Till next time,
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