We are a vacationing family. My husband and I have parents that treat us to vacations each summer. We try to do at least one “our family only” trip a year, and also try to do a few weekend getaways here and there. One of our kiddos has a tough time with these trips-nothing we couldn’t get over, just things we had to approach differently. I want to talk about re-entry today, mostly because we’ve recently crashed and burned, and needed to be reminded how to do this well. Transition is hard for the ADHD brain. I’m not a psychiatrist, so I can’t explain the why of it, but I am a mom and so I know the truth of it.
What I have found to be true is that a little bit of prep goes a long way. The exact wording will vary according to age, but the night before you head home (or earlier, depending on your kiddo), it’s helpful to have a chat about the re-entry and what expectations are. “Hey, honey. We’re heading home tomorrow…how do you think we can help that time to go well?” We brainstorm a few ideas and make a plan, which usually just entails laying out what that child will be doing once the vehicle pulls into the driveway and the trip ends. We used to make our kids unload the van with us, but we’ve found that the disorder of all of the things being puked out into our driveway and kitchen only upset our girl. Now, once we’re settled and I start the laundry, she helps with that, but that first hour or so needs to be spent in her room, just getting used to the space again.
The drive home is a little different, too. We don’t do screens. At all. I recognize that this is not for everyone, but we have found that screen time and confined spaces do not go well together. The brain gets overstimulated and there is no way to burn it off. We didn’t always have this rule, and there were some longer trips that we had allowed screen usage, but there were always meltdowns and anger when transition time came. This means different things need to be used. Books on CD, travel games, art supplies, a cozy blanket and pillow…those are our car diversions. We try to keep high-protein, low sugar snacks at the ready to stave off hunger, because hangry is a THING.
The goal in all of this is to set realistic expectations for both our girl and for us. We would find ourselves getting so frustrated over behaviors that, quite frankly, our kiddo just couldn’t help. We don’t want to frustrate our child or ourselves, and there are other kids that absorb our stress. As parents, we really do need to be students of our children. We need to keep our eyes peeled for what helps them and what hinders them. We had years of failure after failure because we just didn’t understand. Once we knew things had to look different for this child, we set about figuring out the how of it. Our relationship with our girl has continued to improve and her self-confidence has soared.
As I said earlier, we still have our crash and burn moments. Sometimes, when our kiddo is doing so well, we forget the extra accommodations we need to make and things go south. We are so grateful for the grace of God and wise friends who have reoriented us. We know that He makes each of us with our own unique sets of strengths and as a parent, we strive to pull those out of our kids. Be encouraged, no matter where you are at in your journey, that there is so much hope and healing that can happen. Happy vacationing!