Schools Out! Tips For Taking Advantage of Summer Break to De-Stress from the Hustle and Bustle of the School Year
It’s that time of year again when the days are heating up and the spirit of care-free living takes over as school starts to pause for summer break. Kids work all year with the end goal of summer always in mind. The questions often on parents’ minds are: What should I engage my kids in during the summer break? How do I make the most of the time with my kids?
Summer is both an exciting time and an anxiety-inducing transition, as the end of the school year can mean a loss of contact with close friends. In truth, we have seen a significant rise in young people’s mental health struggles, and parents and caretakers feel more pressure than ever to try and tackle them. While kids enjoy unwinding, it can be unsettling as well. Thus finding a balance between structure and freedom can be challenging. Below are tips to consider:
- Soak up the Sunshine
Being outdoors and feeling the sunshine helps children relax and grow. In fact, studies show that a healthy amount of vitamin D from sun exposure is good for children’s immune systems and moods. Developmentally, playing outdoors cultivates children’s imagination and creativity, and releases endorphins to boost mood.
- Unplug and Play
Electronics, in excessive amounts, can have a negative effect on children's mood and self-esteem. We suggest a “digital detox” for the whole family. Digital detox involves setting certain times of the day, that are agreed upon by family members, when everyone switches off their devices and enjoys good old-fashioned fun and family time. Unstructured downtime can be one of the most important times, as kids can discover new passions and talents, and learn to structure themselves.
- Nurture Social Connections and Friendships
Encourage socializing and help your children by planning play dates and social events. Some families consider summer camps, family vacation, local recreation activities — YMCA, boys or girls clubs, or other options offered in your community. Summer camps are a fun and stimulating experience for kids that can also be a time of significant emotional growth, development, and transition. In addition, you can foster community engagement by volunteering with your children to help with the underserved or other vulnerable groups to help grow your child’s connections with the humanistic side of ourselves.
- Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a powerful way to relax and encourage closer family connections and can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Making a family goal to practice at least 5 minutes of mindfulness a day will have a positive impact. Persuading children to sit for any period can be a challenge, so consider more age-specific skills such as doing a body scan or a breathing exercise that takes only a few moments.
- Cultivate Quality Time
Quality time with your kids can have a big impact on their growth and development, and though we all get caught up in the normal bustle of our daily lives it’s important to take a pause and reconnect. Plan at least 5-10 minutes focused time with your children every day, maybe call it your “special time”. Family activities can include meals together, bedtime stories, making a summer bucket list together, etc.
Most importantly, don’t forget to take time for yourself too. Parents and caregivers often put their own time last, contributing to more mental and physical exhaustion on their end. Consider a support system of family and friends that can help out with some activities over the summer.
In conclusion, being prepared for the upcoming summer break will alleviate potential stresses and mental health challenges that may arise.
Lauren Schooner M.D.
Rana Elmaghraby M.D
on behalf of the APA Council for Children, Adolescents, and their Families