Summer is just around the corner, and since May is Mental Health Awareness month, now is the perfect time to talk about childrens’ mental health and summer vacation.
Summer provides kids a much-needed break from the rigors of the school year and offers a time to recharge. But it can also bring new challenges without the structure and predictability of school, as well as the social support of seeing friends almost every day. Here are some ways you can help your child stay mentally healthy all summer long.
Practice social-emotional learning
Just as parents give their children workbooks to keep their academic skills sharp during vacation, you can do the same with social-emotional learning (SEL) activities! There are plenty of SEL resources that you can print out and have your child work on, such as an internal weather report or a mindfulness worksheet. You could also have your child keep a summer journal, or work on some other project that encourages introspection.
Set a schedule
During the summer it’s tempting to let your child stay up late, sleep in, and have unstructured play time all day, but kids are generally more comfortable when they stick to a familiar routine. Establish consistent meal times, chore times, and most importantly bedtime so your child gets enough sleep. Additionally, consider enrolling them in a summer program to give them more structure. Summer camp is an old standby, but you can also look into other summer activities and volunteer opportunities in your area.
Get them outside
Some kids seem content just staying at home all day. However, research shows that exercise and being outside can help reduce stress and improve mood. Even if your child would rather be watching TV or playing video games, try to find an outdoor activity that they’re interested in—like riding a bike or playing frisbee—and set aside time for it regularly.
School often provides an important community for children, so during summer break your child may start to feel lonely. Make sure they have opportunities to see their friends, and help them explore new communities as well. These could include kids in the neighborhood, clubs centered around sports or hobbies, or even support groups for children struggling with particular mental health symptoms. Also, plan plenty of family activities! Summer is one of the best times for quality parent-child bonding.
However you decide to give your child the best summer possible, communicate your plans to them so they know what to expect. That way they’ll be ready and excited to enjoy their break from school.