It’s the time of year where kids have started counting down the days until they get out of school for the summer and are looking forward to not having to do homework for a while. While they are looking forward to the freedom outside of school, parents may be dreading the impact summer can have on their kids' mental health. They won’t be spending as much time at school with their friends, at after school programs, and suddenly will not be having the routine that has been developed over the past 9 months. Transitioning into a summer routine is rough, even without any pre-existing mental health concerns.
One thing that can help over the summer is to keep the same routine as they were in school. Keeping expectations clear on what times dinner is or when to go to bed can help avoid the day to day disagreements on staying up or when they are expected back home. It also helps make sure they still get 8 hours of sleep so they feel well rested and provide predictable frames of reference throughout the day.
Another thing that can help is having something planned during the day. That doesn’t mean there has to be a major trip planned everyday but something to do rather than spending the day on the phone or watching movies. This can be an event at the library, YMCA programs or going swimming. Some of these might be things that are done with friends they want to keep in touch with over the summer or things that are done as a family. This creates time that is spent being social, getting fresh air, or being active; all of which are healthy both mentally and physically.
There is also the potential for teenagers to get a part time job over the summer to help structure the days. Similarly, if they already had one to keep similar hours that aides in keeping the routine similar to that of the school year. They can also put the income towards things they are interested in, maybe a concert or game system, a goal they are working towards over the summer. This also allows for healthy time apart, during the school year kids get used to not seeing parents for 8 hours a day then all of a sudden change to being home potentially all day.
Major changes in routine can always cause a little friction in the family. Luckily, keeping similar routines, having something planned, or getting a job are all things that can help keep things manageable. Making sure there are things to and clear expectations over the summer all while still getting time to relax before the school year starts again.