As the school year comes to a close, kids and teens are excited to enter into summer vacation. Summer can mean relaxed days, more freedom, and more time with friends. But for children and teens who have been working on their own mental health journey (and even those who have not been actively working for wellness), summer can also bring about risks for relapse. This concept may seem counterintuitive, but it is important for parents to work to protect the progress their kids have made towards wellness during the regular school year. Summer can bring about difficulties for several reasons including lack of schedule, routine, and less engagement with the community. These practices are protective in nature and provide a sense of security, and the absence of these practices can create a feeling of uneasiness for kids and teens.
Finding a balance between rest and protective practices is important for family wellness. Effective communication will be an important part of setting up your family for success this summer. Here are a few tips:
Have a conversation with your kiddo about their ideal summer. Ask open-ended questions to understand what they are hoping for. Validate their desire for rest and relaxation - it is hard being in school all year, and the desire for a break makes sense!
Use “I Feel” statements about your hopes for a successful summer
I feel worried when we don’t have anything on our schedule because it can lead to boredom. What I need is for you to help me make a flexible schedule for our summer break
Using the input you gathered, set up a flexible schedule that provides some consistency in the routine but does not closely resemble a typical school day. The pieces of the routine that are most important for mental health are ensuring there is adequate sleep, outside time, and time with peers. Time with peers can be in a relaxed environment (at the neighborhood pool), at a volunteer opportunity, at a part time job, or with a summer camp. Each step of the way, be sure to gather your kiddo’s input and be open to their suggestions and ideas for ways of doing things.
If you feel you need support in these conversations, please reach out to a mental health professional for support. A licensed counselor can help you navigate these concerns with family or individual support.
Licensed Professional Counselor