Blog: Helping Children and Teens Navigate the Summer

It is hard to believe that many kids are already out of school for summer and most will be finished by the end of this week. As parents, a lot of formal and informal planning may go into helping your children and teens to have a great summer.

At the same time, it can sometimes be tough with deciding which routines to maintain (i.e., screen time limits, bedtime), which ones to relax, and helping kids enjoy unstructured time while not derailing them. In addition, deciding how much to push with required or optional summer work can be another challenge. Furthermore, each child’s and teen’s needs are different.

Therefore, while the following strategies can be used as a general guide, you likely will have to modify these as relevant for your individual child or teen based on their specific needs.

  1. Maintaining basic structure of the day around bedtime and other similar things is important. If it makes sense for your child or teen to stay up later, at least helping them to be consistent in most cases with a bedtime and ensuring that they can sleep in later to get enough sleep is important. Obviously special occasions arise where it may make sense to stay up later, but having highly inconsistent bedtimes throughout the summer can impact kids to varying degrees.
  2. If your child is going to a day camp, keeping morning and evening routines similar to the school year can work well.
  3. If your child/teen has lots of different summer activities and their schedule is going to vary week-by-week, it can be especially helpful to help them put their different things on a calendar at the start of the summer so they know ahead of time what to expect each week.
  4. Weaving in time for summer homework or enrichment to maintain/improve skills as needed can be useful.
  5. If your child or teen has a few days here and there without structured activities, depending on your child or teen’s needs, it can be ok to give them unstructured time. Or, better yet, help them plan out the days for themselves, using some basic time anchors (i.e., bedtime, certain requirements like getting physical activity in) and let them weave in large blocks of true free time around that. Breaks from having everything be structured is healthy and important for many kids.
  6. Use the free time to help your child or teen find projects or hobbies of interest if needed, explore new things, and spend more time doing activities that they do not have time for during the school year can be helpful.
  7. For teens, especially those who often have little free time during the school year, help them to structure obligations (i.e., SAT/ACT prep, college application tasks) in a way that gives them evenings and weekends off from these items as much as possible to really give them a break over the summer.
  8. For kids or teens with ADHD, executive function weaknesses, or other related issues, it can be especially easy to get out of a routine and even harder to get back on track with it. In these cases, it is even more important to really try to help them maintain certain elements of structure to help during the summer and for getting back into the swing of things in the fall.

I hope that these strategies are helpful. Enjoy the summer!

Copyright 2022 Carey A. Heller, Psy.D.

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