Dayna Sharp, LCSW
Summer Can Be Hard for Anxious Kids
When we think of kids in the summertime, we probably have images of kids having fun, swimming, eating ice cream, carefree from the expectations and pressures of the school year. As adults, we might be concerned about the “summer slide”—kids losing academic skills they’ve gained over the previous school year. But the reality is that summertime can be difficult for kids emotionally as well. It isn’t always fun in the sun.
Kids who struggle with anxiety may struggle more in the summer. Why? Because summer is one big transition, requiring kids to adjust from the routine provided by school to the uncertainty of what summer has to offer. Even if your child knows just what to expect, adapting to new sleep/wake schedule, being around different peers, and having new adults like camp counselors and lifeguards can be stressful for kids.
And just when children adapt to summer living, it’s often time to transition back into school. In addition to the aforementioned struggles like sleep schedules, children can worry about the unknown—who and how their teacher will be, if their friends will be in their classes, and also face anticipation of academics—”Will I remember my multiplication tables?”.
Kids can can also pick up on their parents anxiety, and summer can be a hard time on parents As well. After all, what are you going to do with the kids everyday for more than two months? And how to swing working and organizing camps, pick ups, lunches? And paying for it all? Children can really tune in to their grown ups stress and anxiety, which might exacerbate their own struggles.
Tips for Thriving through Summer
Make a plan. Write out a calendar, and fill in what will be happening. Are there vacations? Camps? Sports? Music lessons? Trips? Down time?
Create a visual calendar by the month, consider by the week for kids five and under, and keep it where the kids can see. Let them know what is happening on which days. This will help them feel more secure. Preview the next days activities when possible, especially if there’s a change (first day of camp or vacation).
Preview any new activities. If you’re taking a trip somewhere new, show your kids pictures and read books or blogs about what to expect. Share your excitement about the trip!
Encourage your kids to stay connected to school friends. Whether that looks like play dates, phone calls, or even post cards, maintaining a connection with school friends over summer break can help relieve anxiety about returning to school in the fall. Similarly, when kids can keep in touch with summer friends, they might feel more at ease transitioning out of school into summer next year.
Monitor sleep. Make sure that the kids are getting enough sleep each night. Tired kids can be grouchy kids. Tired kids also have trouble managing their emotions and behaviors. The importance of good sleep can’t be overstated!
Try to maintain a regular meal routine. Because kids can get hangry too!
Be mindful of your own stress. Practice strong self care. Design a solid childcare plan. Expand your village. Remember to enjoy the good times.
If your child struggles with transitions, summer can be a good time to get connected with a therapist—someone who can teach them how to cope with change, worry and stress more generally. At Creating Space Counseling and Wellnes, I enjoy supporting kids through tough transitions, giving them the skills they need to thrive through the ups, downs and around a of life.
Call today to schedule an appointment today! Give your family the gift of a summer of self care!