Even as grown adults with never ending responsibilities, being a parent means that we get to relax and slow down life a bit because it's summer. There is no school schedule or stress and daily struggle over homework or school projects. I feel like it's a chance for the kids to just be kids and time for me to just be mom - not school enforcer! (This applies to homeschooling parents as well!)
For parents of children with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders, as well as SPD, ODD, OCD, and more, the pressures of school can be especially overwhelming. It is a constant push to help our children meet the expectations laid out before them. The demands are heavy and the stakes high.
We desire for our children to be successful in the world that isn't set up for their needs and will stop at nothing to help them. The usual family vacations, more time spent playing outdoors, and carefree summer feeling are a welcome relief to many families, no matter what alphabet soup diagnosis their kids may have!
Although summer is a time of ease for many, that doesn't mean we can let our guard down completely. Diligence is still needed in keeping your child's diet for ADHD and autism. Don't get caught in the mindset that you can eat what you want when school is out! This is a common mistake many parents make - the thought that your child's behavior doesn't matter as much when they don't have to perform at school.
If we start to give in to one thing here or there, it could lead to a full backslide and make it really hard on yourself to get going with it again. I learned my share of that early on! We don't want our kids binging on junk foods or eliminated items any more than we want them binging on "screen time" just because there is no school.
Not only is "cheating" harder on yourself as dietary planner in the end, but it is harder on your child. Allowing something "just for now" or "just this once" will keep giving them the hopes of eating it again another time. If you decide that something has be eliminated from the diet, then do it completely.
We may feel like we are giving them something special as a treat, but in reality, it creates more of a struggle for them when they can't have it another time. It also sets up undefined boundaries and when they are out on their own, they will not have the clear example to make the right choice alone. Find acceptable treats just as you would if school were in session!
We must also consider their physical, mental, and emotional status. If we start to slip on the diet, we will see a regression into symptoms and issues that were already eliminated. For parents of children with more extreme symptoms or full autism, it would be catastrophic to see regression! If you worked so hard to get your child to where they are, you wouldn't want them to lose any of their newfound abilities. It is easy to stay strong when the stakes are so high.
For parents of children with milder symptoms, this might not be such a big deal. What harm is there with a lack of concentration during the summer, you might ask? Not only are you setting the stage for inconsistency as already mentioned, you will raise the stress level overall, even if so mild that you don't first realize it.
Our kids don't just have a lack of concentration (or whatever mild symptom is at hand), but a myriad of intertwined sensations and feelings as well as internal physical reactions that can gradually worsen. It is this circumstance where your guard has to be at its highest. The mildest of change will grow and come back to surprise you eventually. Then you'll be left wondering how that happened!
Stay strong. Remember how bad it can get with how it used to be. Go back to your beginning notes of the symptoms your child experienced before you made positive changes. Look at the old food log records to review what reactions you had in the beginning stages.
All it takes is one regression to make you realize how important it is to maintain the progress you have made! I hope these reasons to keep the diet for ADHD and autism going over summer will help you avoid all that and maintain the peace in your home.
All the negatives consequences of slipping away from your new lifestyle aside, I'll be back again in the next article with a discussion on the benefits of upgrading your child's diet during the summer months.