Summer break tends to hold a warm place in the hearts of adults. Since most of us don’t get extended vacation anymore, we tend to look back at summer as the time of our lives. We had freedom, flexibility, and no school. What’s not to love?
Some teens relish summer. But for others, summertime can be a trigger for a number of things, like peer issues, anxiety, or even depression. As a parent, you might be thinking, “Seriously? All my teen does is complain about school. How could summer be a bad thing?”
As much as teens, or even kids, might complain about school, it still gives them something to do. And for a teen that might be predisposed to stress, the things adults loved about summer (i.e. freedom, flexibility) can actually induce anxious or depressive symptoms. Teens go from having their day to day lives completely structured to having no structure whatsoever. They go from being able to see their friends 5 days a week to social uncertainty and perhaps much more “alone” time. They go from having a purpose or goal, to having none.
It’s like you going to work every day, then retiring, but not having a plan. No money, no transportation, no independence. You might wake up feeling lost.
How can you help your teen?
There is a whole range of things you can do to help your teen get through summer successfully. While some great options are getting your child signed up for camps or activities, that might not work for everyone. So here are some small things you and your teen can do, that don’t break the bank:
- Have a sleep routine – Often in the summer, teen’s sleep patterns can be erratic. They might go to bed at 3 in the morning and wake up at 2 in the afternoon one day, only to fall asleep at 10 the next night. While they don’t have to wake up early to catch the bus, it is still important to have some “normal” sleep routine. Why? When people get too much or too little sleep, it can intensify symptoms of anxiety and depression. Routine sleep can help regulate your teen’s mood.
- Implement a daily routine – This does not have to be as structured or intense as school, but it might help your teen feel like he or she has a goal or a purpose every day. Try scheduling a time each day to get that summer reading done. Take a walk every day. Find some volunteer work to do.
- Give them something to look forward to – Try and schedule fun or social things for your teen to do once a week. This doesn’t have to be something extravagant or big, just something that interests your teen, perhaps gets them out of the house and interacting with other people.
When to worry…
Let’s say you have tried out a number of things, but nothing seems to help. Here are some warning signs that your teen might be struggling with more than just summertime blues:
- Seems down, low, or blue most of the time
- Cries frequently or out of nowhere
- Has a change in appetite (eats more or less than usual)
- Has a change in sleep (sleeps more or less than usual)
- Seems fatigued
- Is irritable or grouchy for seemingly small things
- Has less energy or motivation, even if they have adequate sleep
- Isolates from others
- Has less interest in things that they used to enjoy
- Seems tense or worried, and is not able to “shut off” their worries
If you notice your teen is struggling with a combination of these symptoms, please give us a call and we can see how we can get your teen feeling better and enjoying their summer!