For kids, summer break is usually a time to kick back and relax. Most kids look forward to summer break but for some, the change in routine can be disconcerting. Children who suffer from mental disorders, such as anxiety or depression, may find summer break takes them away from the “safety” of their school routines. These kids may actually experience increased anxiety when summer break begins.
In addition, parents may also struggle as they try to balance work while making sure kids are happy and fulfilled all summer. As we finally start to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, these struggles are even more prevalent.
Here’s some strategies for kids and families to keep mental health a top priority during summer break:
Create structure through schedules
Most kids thrive with routine, particularly kids with mental disorders. The key is consistency — for example, keep the same wake up and bed times every day, schedule a Zoom call every week with family members, or coordinate a playdate with their friends each week.
Plan fun activities
Spend some time planning fun activities with your children. Kids who might feel depressed because they can’t see their usual group of friends can enjoy new, fun activities, such as summer camp or swim lessons. Children who love to read can enjoy summer reading programs, usually provided for free at local libraries. It can be as simple as planning activities for the family, such as a weekly game night or a barbecue.
Enjoy time outside
While this can be hard when temperatures rise, kids benefit greatly from physical activity and getting out of the house for a while. Going for a bike ride in the evening, swimming or just a walk around the block can help kids feel more cheerful. Getting out of the house also limits screen time. Children should turn off the screen for a while and enjoy the sunshine instead.
Make family time a priority
Summer break usually means no work for kids, but most parents rarely have the same luxury. Many parents can’t get time off during the summer, however, kids don’t need a parent with a month off to have quality family time. Just doing everyday things together, such as cooking or a family movie night, can make a difference to kids.
Find a balance
Some children with anxiety may find that summer is overwhelming if parents try to cram in too many activities. While it’s important to find fun things for kids to do, it’s also important for kids to be able to relax and enjoy some downtime. The key is learning to find a balance between too much and too little. Learning how to balance work and play is a skill children can use throughout their lifetimes.