Teens, Children, & The Summer Blues

Teens and children are often so excited about the end of the school year. They count down the days until they are free from homework and long days in the classroom. They list all of the fun ways they are going to spend their free time in between vacations or other fun events they have planned. Unfortunately, this excitement is often short-lived. Many teens and children spend a significant portion of their summers sleeping or isolated inside. Their excitement turns into boredom and mood swings. What happened?

People typically are at their best emotionally and physically when they have some sense of structure to their schedules. Waking up and going to bed around the same time allows our bodies to rest more effectively. Too much sleep increases fatigue and reduces motivation. Teens and children look forward to sleeping in but often take sleeping in too far. Their excessive time spent sleeping isolates them and interferes with social time and exercise, which are both important for the mental and physical health.

I strongly encourage parents and caregivers to set a basic schedule for their children and teens. Including the child/teen in creating the schedule will often make them more invested in following the schedule. Their routines do not need to be as rigid as they are during the school year, but a general schedule can make a huge impact on their well-being!

1. I recommend a wake-up time between 8:30am and 9:30am (depending on what time they typically go to sleep). Studies show that teens typically need 9-10 hours of sleep. Bedtimes should be scheduled accordingly. Children typically need more sleep (depending on their age).

2. It is also beneficial to have a time scheduled for exercise. Exercise in the summer could include swimming, walking, playing at the park, running, bike riding, etc.

3. Educational activities should also be incorporated into their schedule. These activities could include reading a chapter of a book, watching a documentary, going to a museum, learning a new recipe, etc. Summer is also a great time for children/teens who struggle with certain subjects to improve skills through workbooks. These workbooks are typically affordable and available online or at local stores.

4. Socializing throughout the summer is important! Teens and kids often lose connections to friends over the summer which increases isolation and mood swings. Times have changed over the past several years and many teens and children do not think to ask friends to hang out with them. Parents and caregivers should encourage them to spend time socializing. There are many camps available for teens and children. These camps can be expensive, but many organizations and churches offer scholarships! Camps keep kids and teens active and provide them with opportunities to learn and socialize. They also provide parents and caregivers with some much-needed time without kids!

5. Responsibilities (i.e., chores, work, etc.) should continue throughout the year. A weekly chore list posted on the fridge is helpful for the family and the teen/child. Chores throughout the summer are helpful for teens/kids to stay accustomed to having obligations. This makes the transition into the next school year a little easier because they are not hit with several responsibilities all at once. Chores are also helpful for the family because they take some tasks away from parents and caregivers. I suggest having different chores in the summer vs. during the school year because there is more time for chores when school is not in session; however, this may not be the case for children and teens involved in summer sports or other activities.

These are just a few suggestions to improve emotional and physical wellness throughout the summer. Summer blues and depression are different things. Do not hesitate to get a professional opinion by a therapist if you are concerned about your child’s mental health. Lasting Serenity Counseling provides mental health counseling for teens and has daytime, evening, night, and Saturday appointments available. If your child or teen reports any thoughts of suicide or self-harm, they need immediate clinical attention! Call 911 or take your child to an emergency room for further evaluation.

For additional information about sleep problems in teens or children, visit https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/specialties/sleep-disorder-center/sleep-in-adolescents

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