A recent parenting column explored the various aspects of summertime that can affect kids in a negative way.
Despite the widely believed idea that kids live for summertime, those three months away from structured routine can actually be anxiety-inducing for some.
A column in the Washington Post’s On Parenting section, written by child and adolescent psychotherapist and parenting educator Katie Hurley, brings up the fact that some children struggle when faced with three months off.
For one of her patients, an 8-year-old girl, this anxiety was rooted in having two working parents and having to attend various day camps over the summer, each with its own set of rules and routine.
“We think of the summer months as carefree and relaxing, but many kids actually experience an uptick in anxiety during the break,” Hurley writes. “Anxious kids rely on carefully crafted routines, and too little structure or shifting routines can feel overwhelming.”
According to Hurley, there are various aspects of summertime that can affect kids in a negative way. A common one is over-scheduling children.
“Many parents view the summer months as a time for children to ‘catch up,’ improve or gain an edge, and enroll them in numerous classes or activities, leaving little or no time for kids to relax and rejuvenate,” Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author, says. “Piling on and filling time only adds to their stress and anxiety that, ideally, summer break is theoretically designed to reduce.”
“Although it might be tempting to focus on the words “small increased risk” or state that more research is needed (it is), it’s also important to note that any risk is too much when it comes to our kids’ mental health,” Hurley writes.
Additional factors that can increase anxiety include changes in eating and sleep habits and worrying about travel plans.
So what can be done to limit the likelihood of increased anxiety in children over the summer? Hurley suggests focusing on the basics, such as a balanced diet, consistent sleep schedule and water and exercise.
“Preserving the sleep routine that your child relies on during the school year can prevent him or her from losing sleep or getting caught in a pattern of constant adjustments,” Hurley writes.
Setting screen-time boundaries, planning for travel, not over-scheduling and spending quality time with children can also be helpful.
“Doing fun things together — be it a hike or a trip or backyard picnics or even cooking together on a regular basis — is more important for your children’s mental health than sports camps or summer academics to get ahead for the next school year,” Newman said. “You will build bonds and memories that will last a lifetime.”