|Summer Break Care for Your Child’s Mental Health
By Lynette Dixon, PhD, LPC, NCC, CRAADC
Summer is that time of year that students have looked forward to forever, starting just after Spring Break. Children can’t wait until this precious time of year when demands are often lessened and they are free to enjoy the warm weather and extra time with friends or working to buy such necessities as Air Buds. However, as exciting and anticipated as summer usually is, for children who thrive on structure and more organized times to interact with their peers, it can be challenging.
Children who are not be as adept as their peers (or even their siblings) at organizing social interactions with peers may experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. They may fall into patterns of sleeping late and the lounging around the house far too often. While this is typical summer behavior enjoyed by many, engaging in less activity for others can lead to feelings of boredom, unproductivity, and may even lead to an increase in depressive symptoms, especially for students who are pre-disposed to depression.
Children struggling with mental and emotional issues often receive significant support during the school year from caring teachers, school counselors, and other staff with whom they form close relationships with and who are able to more easily monitor how they are d0oing than one or two harried, working parents.. Without the support of these caring relationships signs can go un-noticed. However, with some planning and effort summer can provide a time for parents or other caregivers to reconnect with their children and make lasting memories.
Here are some tips for parents to support their children’s mental health during summer break, as well as some signs to be on the lookout for, to intervene in an effective way:
– Have a summer routine. Summer is the perfect time to relax and enjoy a slower pace, but it is still important to maintain a routine so children continue to engage in stimulating activities.
– Have healthy routines. Stay active, eat right, and maintain healthy sleep habits. are important to maintain over the summer months. Our mental well-being is connected to our physical health.
– If your child is a writer, buy them a special notebook for journaling. This can provide an outlet for emotions.
– Encourage children to try something new. A new hobby or project can provide children with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
– Make certain to do activities together, even something as simple as playing catch in the yard. While family activities can be great, be certain that each parent (and step-parent if appropriate) should spend some one-on-one time with each child during the summer months, such as a special breakfast with mom or dad on Saturday or ice cream on Tuesdays, alternating which child is special. Remember that relaxed, low pressure activities can open up some space for your child to share what is on his or her mind.
– Watch the children’s behavioral patterns. Many kids love to sleep late during the summer months, and this may be okay, but if they sleep for most of the day, no longer want to engage with their family or friends, show extreme irritability, or stop doing activities that they once enjoyed, that that may be a cause for concern.
– Watch for signs of out of the ordinary worries or concerns, especially if the child also disengages from others or if they suddenly begin to engage in more sedentary activities.
If you do notice any troubling signs with your child, starting a conversation with them can be a good place to start. It is also a good idea to consult with your pediatrician or even seek out a counseling appointment. West County Psychological Associates has counselors available for children, adolescents, adults and families and would be glad to discuss your concerns about your child.