Our first Collaborative Schedule was born about five days into summer vacation. As the mom, I was trying to “get stuff done” and as the kid, Little Miss was following me though the house, whining, complaining, and peppering me with questions. Frustrated, I put the iPad under her nose and stomped off to sulk. If the whole summer was going to be this way, there was no way that the two of us were going to make it without someone having a meltdown (more likely than not, me).

As a chronic list maker, I pulled out a notepad and started to write down the things I needed to get done – but I hadn’t penned two lines before a thought came to me: what about the things I wanted to do? That triggered another thought: what about the things Little Miss wanted to do?

Sadly, I thought about my own summers as a child and how summers are so different for Little Miss. With autism, ADHD, anxiety, and a number of other struggles on her plate, Little Miss has far less independence than I had at the same age. Unfortunately, the same can even be said for typical children. With so much more danger in the word today, our children also have far less independence. “Free-range” children are outliers and the majority must rely on parents and caregivers to plan and provide for their activities.

There had to be something I could do. Yes, I still had my adult responsibilities but this was Little Miss’s summer too. After all the work she does just to keep up with her peers, she deserved to enjoy her summer. Not to mention that if I always tell her what she’s going to do next, she’ll never be independent enough to plan her own activities and make her own choices. She will always be following me around the house, whining, complaining, and peppering me with questions.

I called Little Miss over to the counter where I was making my list and asked her: “what do you want to do today?” Her first response was to play iPad and I wrote it down. This was brainstorming and I was determined not to shut her down on any idea. I made a list for myself and told her that I was going to write “farm market” for myself. “Now it’s your turn again, Little Miss. What else do you want to do?”

Our lists grew and I added a third category for things that we had to do (prepare and eat dinner, work on our summer reading, take a bath). Finally, we had a plan. We took turns with our activities, and peppered in the things we had to do that day. By the end of the day we had finished the list, and we were BOTH happy.

We repeated the process the next day and the next and before long, friends began to ask how we did it. We are both having fun. No one has melted down. And I feel like I have gotten to know my daughter better than ever this summer. We hope you feel the same way about your Collaborative Schedule too.