Summer break is more than an escape from school — it can be a time for fun and relaxation, an escape from the weekday rut. But summer break can bring unique challenges, too — especially to the mental health of young people and their families.
With changes in routines, increased free time, and social pressures, it’s essential to prioritize mental health during summer. So, let’s explore a few strategies to help youth and families foster positive growth and a nurturing environment during summer break.
Encourage a Balanced Routine:
While summer is a time for freedom and relaxation, maintaining a balanced routine is crucial for mental health. Help young people establish a schedule that incorporates a healthy mix of physical activity, learning, social interaction, and downtime. Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy while also ensuring they get enough rest and sleep.
When possible, plan family activities you can all do together, too. Ensuring the entire family gets quality time to foster relationships is so important to the family dynamic.
Foster Emotional Expression and Communication:
Summer can be an opportunity for youth to decompress from school stressors, reflect on their emotions, and express themselves. Encourage them to do exactly that by creating a safe and non-judgmental space where they (and you) can share their thoughts and feelings. And be sure to sprinkle in regular check-ins to ensure everyone feels heard and supported.
By engaging in meaningful conversations and actively listening, you can help kids develop emotional intelligence and problem-solving skills while building stronger family ties.
Support Social Connections:
Social interaction is vital for youth mental health — especially during the summer months when it’s not as easy for kids to connect with their peers. Encourage kids to maintain relationships with friends and family. Help them plan activities or outings with peers, like joining summer camps, sports teams, or community programs. There are many opportunities for both in-person and virtual interaction, and they can all help combat isolation and promote a sense of belonging.
Promote Healthy Habits:
Summer often brings temptations to indulge in unhealthy habits like excessive screen time, poor eating habits, or substance use. But summer also offers a chance for young individuals to explore new interests, develop skills, and discover their passions. It’s up to the adults to educate youth about the importance of maintaining healthy habits and provide guidance on making positive choices.
Encourage them to engage in physical exercise, eat nutritious foods, and limit screen time. Guide them toward activities that foster personal growth — like reading, learning a new hobby, volunteering, or participating in summer enrichment programs. All of these activities can support their curiosity and allow for individual learning and exploration.
And be sure to model those behaviors — because we can all benefit from healthier choices.
Support Each Other’s Mental Well-being:
Each family member has unique mental health needs, and they will come up at different times throughout the summer months. So be mindful of any signs of stress, anxiety, or low mood in yourself and others. When you see those signs, seek out a safe and supportive way to discuss mental health. And if you ever feel like you or a child needs more support than you can provide, don’t hesitate to seek professional support. (Need help exploring how to talk about therapy? Read this.)