As the summer continues, more and more families are planning fun activities together with the summer sun shining high in the sky. During this time, it’s important to think about the mental health of children in case they begin to struggle. Some Juniper clinicians came together and created a list of helpful tips that parents can utilize to help make sure their kids are doing okay in their mental health state of mind during the summer.
Create a Summer Routine
Having a constant routine is an easy way for kids to keep track of what the day will bring. Whether it consists of completing house chores or going to the swimming pool, being able to know what will be going on a particular day can provide kids comfort so they know what is coming up for them. The summer routine can also include bedtimes to ensure they get some rest and are prepared for what adventures may be ahead for them the next day. Some of the fun things parents can do with their kids around this time of year can even include teaching them a new skill (house care, special projects, self care skills, etc.)
Go Outside and Enjoy the Sun with Family
The sunshine is an excellent source of vitamin D, which supports immunity & melatonin and can encourage healthy sleep habits. Being in the sun can also help someone improve their mood tremendously. In addition, outdoor physical activity provides serotonin, improves mental health & physical strength as well as giving a boost in overall health and confidence. Family time can provide encouragement, loving care, strengthen relationships, build confidence and self esteem. This family time can result in being the perfect model of socialization & appropriate behavior. Be sure to emphasize the importance of hydration and the proper protection to prevent sunburn by providing the kiddos with extra water and making sure they are wearing sunblock and clothing to block out the sun. Not only can this be used for everyday outdoor activities, but it can also be important to mention these types of reminders if the family is heading out to the water park or local pool for the day. In addition, if there is a day that is dedicated to riding bikes, take this time to teach children the importance of bike safety (wearing helmets, knee pads, etc.)
It’s always a good idea to plan in advance for what the family has planned for the summer time, whether it’s week-long family vacations or day trips to the waterpark. However, it is not uncommon for some children to struggle during the summer months. It’s always good to be on the lookout for signs of your kid having troubles with keeping up with all of the fun things going on around them.
Signs of Struggle
- Withdrawal or isolation: spending too much time in their bedroom or on their devices, no longer wanting to hang out with their friends or attend family gatherings, a decrease in emotiveness at the dinner table, sleeping in excess
- Change in appearance: less interest in self care and hygiene
- Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy doing
- Change in mood-low or high: could be from heat exhaustion (dehydration or lack of sun protection), paranoias or disorganized speech, signs of psychotic episodes
What Parents Can Do to Help?
One of the most effective things that parents can do is listen to their kids, empathize with them, validate and gently encourage them. It’s best for parents to try and get their thoughts out by using good listening skills, asking open-ended questions, and brainstorming with them after getting their permission to do so. Helping them advocate for themselves is an important life-long skill that benefits us all.
“Maintaining communication with them during good times and during tough times is important. Let them know you are there for them” – Peggy Moulton. The more parents take notice about what’s going on in their children’s lives, the more they can better understand how to help them express their thoughts and feelings not only during the summer time, but also for during the upcoming school year. It’s always good for parents to develop strong and open relationships with their kids so that they can always turn to their parents if they ever need help with anything that’s going on in their lives, even when they are having fun in the sun!