Keeping Your Kids Mentally Healthy During the Summer
Summer is a great time to go on trips, host family gatherings and relax. And although many kids love the freedom from school or homework, the lack of responsibilities can actually negatively impact their mental health due to the change in their routine and lack of structure during the summer.
Kids can be very accustomed to their daily school routine, so changes during summer break may be challenging for them. For kids with anxiety, the amount of free time in summer can allow more time to worry and ruminate on things that they normally wouldn’t. For kids with depression, the lack of social interaction with classmates can cause them to feel isolated and down. Another reason a child’s mental health may change over the summer is increased screen time. Kati Guernsey, Director of Child Services at Centerstone, says “the more time spent online can create conflict with caregivers when the child isn’t fully present due to electronic distractions.”
Here are some ways parents can help keep their kids mentally healthy and on track:
- Maintain a schedule. This doesn’t have to be the same as their school schedule, but it should be something realistic that will work for summer. Enforce set meal times, wake up and bed times so kids know they can rely on a routine.
- Encourage social interaction. For younger kids, day camps and playdates are great to keep them physically and mentally active throughout the day. For older kids, encourage them to spend time with friends and join in activities that they enjoy. This could be a summer art class, sports league, or even a part-time job. Guernsey also recommends carving out time to plan Zoom or FaceTime calls with friends or family who may be away for the summer.
- Involve them in plans. If your family likes to take an annual summer trip, or even day trips, involve the kids in the planning! Ask them where they’d like to go and which activities they’d like to do.
While there are ways to keep mental health on track, there are indicators that you mean you may need to intentionally check in with your child. These warning signs will vary based on the age of the child. Younger kids may cry more than usual, throw temper tantrums, be clingy, have nightmares, or show signs of separation anxiety. For older kids, some warning signs include isolation, withdrawing from people and activities they normally enjoy, angry outbursts, changes in appearance, violent behavior, or even suicidal ideations. If any of these behaviors become noticeable in your child, “validate their feelings,” says Guernsey, “and reassure them that these feelings will pass.” However, some negative feelings and behaviors may persist and require intervention. Any suicidal statements and behaviors should always be taken seriously, and be followed by additional questions to ensure their safety.
If you believe your child is experiencing concerning mental health behaviors, Centerstone can help. Call us at 877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) or visit our counseling services page.