Click here for a FREE download on tips to finding peace, hope & gratefulness in the hard places of being a special needs mom.

It is finally summer! Does that fill you with joy, dread, or a little bit of both? When my kids were younger, I would approach the coming summer break with apprehension. When I heard other moms looking forward to the lazy summer days, fun activities, family vacations, and sleeping in, I would feel jealous and anxious. As a mom of children with mental health issues and behavioral struggles, I knew our summer break would look very different from others. As summer approached, I would get stressed. I started making chore charts, behavior expectations, and rules. Then I would eat some candy. None of this did anything to calm my nerves. I have learned to remind myself to take a deep breath, get quiet, and not approach summer from a place of fear.

Here are some strategies that have helped me over the years. I hope they will help you too!

Take care of yourself

We hear this all the time, but we seldom do it. So please do it now. Take a deep breath and think about what you need to put in place to allow space to breathe, not for your child, but for you.

Your well-being matters. These next few months may be challenging. You need to fill your cup with the practices that help you stay calm and peaceful. Make a list and pick the top three priorities. My top self-care tasks were finding a quiet space for morning prayer, exercise, and order. I know I will be a hot mess on day three if I do not have these anchors in my day. Ask yourself: What do I need? What can you fit into my life right now? Make a plan to adapt to your situation at the moment.

Lower your expectations

Lower your expectations as you look at the summer months at home with kids. Most kids with special needs have accommodations via their individual education plans (IEP) at school. So write an IEP for your home. What needs to adapt to help your child be successful? What needs to adapt to help you and the other children be successful?

My children needed a lot of structure. I often had to monitor them because they required supervision anytime they used the computer. How did I manage to do this and get my own work done? I learned to lower my expectations of what might get done. We must also reassess our expectations for meals, housework, and life. Do the best you can, and do not worry about the rest.

Refrain from comparing

It can be disheartening to get on Instagram. I can become discouraged by photos of families finger-painting, making homemade marshmallows, or on a worry-free vacation. I want normal, not challenging behaviors…but comparing my life to others never helps. So stay in your lane and do what you need to do to make this summer work for you and your family.


Get outside with your kids. Most kids do better if they move. Find ways to be active. Regardless of your situation, try to find a few moments outside. I used to take our child to the high school track. I would walk around the way, and she would run. If she was oppositional, she could throw a raging fit, and I would still keep walking (with earbuds in). One upside of no one being in school is that no one will be there to judge your child’s behavior!

Have a break glass (in case of emergency) plan

There will be days that are long and hard. I have been a RAD parent for a long time, so I know my child will be oppositional most days. It is hard on him and on me. I need to show him mercy and compassion. I know I will not do this perfectly. So what is my plan when things are tough? I reach out to a friend on the phone or meet to have margaritas and chips and salsa.

Have a plan in place for those most stressful days. You can walk when your husband gets home or watch something that makes you laugh. Complete the stress cycle. In the excellent book Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski, the authors suggest that physical activity completes the stress cycle.

Ask for help

I know this is hard. As special needs moms, we always ask for help, and often no one can step in and assist us. Before you dismiss this suggestion, please keep asking. Make a list of what you need and whom you can ask. Then ask for the help you need.

And at the end of each day (because you’ll need to take it a day at a time)…

See what worked and didn’t, and give yourself grace. Adjust as you go, and remember that this isn’t forever. Most importantly, give each moment of each day to our loving God, who sees you.

I would love to hear from you! Respond to this email and let me know if this resonates, or set up a time to chat with me here.


Authored By:

Amy J. Brown

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