Preserving Children’s Mental Health During Summer
With the end of the school year, it’s important for parents to prepare for the summer. This is particularly true for those who have children with mental health issues. For these children, transitioning from structured school schedules to summer break can create disorder and anxiety.
Let’s talk about how you can be proactive to preserve your child’s mental health this summer.
Create a routine. Children behave best with general structure and order. Consider establishing wake and sleep times, meal times, and expected activities for your child. Routines create regularity and stability, thus children tend to function better when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. To help with organization, consider creating visual cues to remind your child what to expect throughout the day. An example of a helpful visual cue could be a chart of the day’s events like chore assignments, nap times, and meal times. If your child is enrolled in summer camp, consider calling ahead to find out the agenda for each day and include this on your home visual chart. This can help your child anticipate the activities of the day with confidence.
Keep your child active. During the school year, children participate in physical education, recess, and extracurricular activities. These activities provide children with important social interaction and physical exercise that is critical for healthy development. Consider taking your child to the park for play dates with friends, riding a bike, or playing a game of catch in the backyard. An active lifestyle helps relieve stress and can improve your child’s mental health. This will also help instill healthy habits early in your child’s life.
Encourage and support your child’s interests. When your child finds something that appeals to her or him, it is important to nurture and support it. Consider scheduling activities around your child’s interests such as taking a tour of the local museum, auditioning for a summer musical, or joining a youth book club. This sort of parental support and encouragement could promote lifelong hobbies and cultivate natural talents. This will also give you something special to bond over with your child.
Talk to your child. Ask your child how he or she is feeling. Creating a family culture of open dialogue will help develop and strengthen your child’s communication skills. There may be unspoken anxieties about meeting new children at summer camp, an upcoming flight on an airplane, or any number of future events. It is important that your child knows he or she can talk to you about his or her state of mind. This will also teach your child how to recognize his or her own feelings and mental health needs as they mature.
Practice self-care. It’s important for you as a parent to monitor your own mental health. Your child deserves the best version of you, so take care of yourself. If you find yourself feeling anxious, try to find healthy ways to reduce stress and focus on positivity. Consider going for a walk, taking a bubble bath, or meditating. Finding a positive stress reliever will not only help you but also set a good example for your child.
Lastly, parents need support! It is important for parents to build a community network to provide outlets for themselves and their children. Peer relationships are important in adulthood, just as they are in childhood. Talk to your fellow parents in the community and encourage one another. What works in some families may not work in others. Do not be afraid to turn to your support network for advice. This is what community is all about!
These tips will help preserve your child’s mental health over the summer. If your child does experience a mental health crisis during summer, remember Peace River Center’s Mobile Crisis Response Team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (863) 519-3744. For more information about our services, which are available in Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties, please visit https://www.peacerivercenter.org/.
We hope you and your children have a safe and fun summer!