This is often the high point of the year for most kids as school winds down and they can look forward to fun and sun – but what does that look like with restrictions still in place, activities canceled and no sense of regularity?

Kids often associate summer with freedom from school, but summer can also be difficult on certain mental illnesses too. Children struggling with mental illnesses should be encouraged to continue to follow a routine, although it may look different without distance learning built in. Indoor and outdoor activities are excellent ways to keep their minds engaged and focused throughout the day.

In addition to establishing and maintaining a healthy and functional routine in the house, it is also important for parents and children to have clear communication established, should struggles begin to arise. The separation from peers may continue to be a challenge for kids as they go into a time when they should be allowed to have fun with friends.

Here are some helpful times to maintain positive mental health during a very strange upcoming summer.

  • Have a variety of activities to take part in. Boredom can set in quickly if children feel as if they only have a few options to choose from each day. These activities do not have to all be physical or outdoors either. Reading, variety of puzzles, arts and crafts and trivia are all available as both indoor and outdoor activities.
  • Work to incorporate and maintain balance into the day. Too much sleep, TV, etc. can also quickly lead to boredom as well. Ensure balance when creating a routine that incorporates free time, family time, chores, activities, work/school, etc. throughout each day.
  • Work to maintain a healthy sleep schedule and sleep hygiene every night. Limit and minimize excessive sleeping throughout the day, limit electronic use before bed and establish appropriate bedtimes and wake up times are all good ways to ensure a healthy sleep schedule.
  • Work with kids on appropriate ways to release energy or relax throughout the day. Children with siblings can quickly become agitated with one another, if they haven’t already. Ensuring that the children know and utilize appropriate ways to express their emotions or to calm down will help to limit stress and altercations within the household.
  • If possible, join a group, camp or organization. COVID-19 restrictions may limit in person gatherings, but check to see of online or virtual options that may be offered. This can give children and adults an opportunity to interact with others with shared interests on a regular basis.

As parents, work to connect with them regularly and understand how they are feeling as summer begins, but also as it continues. Feelings of sadness and loneliness may already be present since distance learning began, and may continue to worsen as normal activities get postponed or cancelled. Being stuck inside and away from social interaction can be a quick trigger for anxious or depressed symptoms to arise or increase in severity.

Depending on the age of the child, there may be some shame or embarrassment that comes with such symptoms as well. They may become more withdrawn from familiar family interactions or lose interest in preferred activities. These and other signs may be cause for concern, should they go unaddressed. These are times when open communication should be utilized regularly and a child’s mental status and stability be checked in on.

If you feel that your child/children are struggling and would benefit from talking to someone, tele therapy sessions continue to be offered, with openings available. Please call Lakes Center for Youth and Families at (651) 464-3685 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Jordan Martin, MS
Youth and Family Therapist
Lakes Center for Youth and Families