School’s out for summer! 5 ways for kids to keep mental health a priority during summer break
For kids, summer break is usually a time to celebrate the end of school — and the beginning of lazy mornings sleeping in! Most kids look forward to their summer break every year.
But for some kids, the change in routines can be startling. Kids who suffer from mental disorders, such as anxiety or depression, may find that their summer break takes them away from the “safe zone” their school routines create. These kids may actually experience a rise in anxiety when summer break begins.
Parents can also struggle as they balance work and making sure kids are happy and fulfilled while at home. And as we finally start to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, these struggles are highlighted more than ever.
Help is Here has gathered some strategies for kids and families to keep mental health a top priority during the hottest time of the year:
Create structure through schedules
Most kids thrive with routine, particularly kids with mental disorders. Summertime means the end of their normal schedule, and these kids may struggle when they don’t know what to expect day by day.
The key is consistency — whatever you do, make sure it stays consistent during summer months. 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 outside with their friends every Friday.
Plan fun activities
Kids who might feel depressed because they can’t see their usual group of friends can highly benefit from new, fun activities, such as summer camps or swim lessons. Kids who love to read can benefit from summer reading programs, usually provided for free at local libraries. It can even be as simple as planning activities for the family, such as a weekly game night or a barbecue.
Playing a part in the planning process can help kids feel less anxious while also empowering them — especially when taking a summer trip. Kids who are asked to take part in planning will feel secure in knowing what’s coming next and what issues might come up, such as a travel delay.
Enjoy time outside
While this can be hard when temperatures reach triple digits, 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 even just a walk around the block will increase Vitamin D levels and ensure kids feel a little more cheerful.
Getting out of the house also limits screen time — which many kids overindulge on during the summer months. There’s nothing wrong with a TV marathon here and there, but too much time in front of a screen may actually increase anxiety and depression. Turn the screen off for a while and enjoy the sunshine instead!
Make family time a priority
Summer break may mean school is over for kids, but most parents rarely find themselves with the same luxury. This change can be jarring for some children who might not know what to do at home during the hours they would typically be at school.
Not all parents can get time off during the summer months, but kids don’t need a parent with a month off to have quality family time. Even just doing normal things together, such as cooking or a family movie night, can make a world of difference to kids.
Find a balance
Some kids with anxiety may find that summer is overwhelming if parents try to cram it too full with activities to keep them busy!
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 kids can use throughout their lifetimes.
Our Help is Here campaign is dedicated to connecting High Desert youth to valuable mental health resources and services. Check out our Mental Health Directory to find national, state, and local resources.