Many kids look forward to summer as a time to play, relax, and try new things. But for children with anxiety, summer can present some unique stressors. Here are a few common ways that summer can cause increased anxiety for kids, and what you can do to help your child feel more secure and also prepare for the fall.
Lack of Structure – Maintain a Summer Routine
Children with anxiety often thrive on routine. With the end of the school year, their schedule can suddenly become unpredictable, and this lack of predictability can be very stressful. Creating and maintaining a summer routine that lets kids know what to expect on a daily and weekly basis may give them the sense of control that they need in order to relax. It also helps to prepare them (and you) for the coming start of the new school year. If you haven’t done so already, it’s not too late to start introducing some structure; especially as August transitions to September.
Overscheduling – Spend Time Together
Although it’s a good idea to keep children occupied and busy, a schedule that is jam-packed with new experiences like day camps, swimming classes, and other activities may not be the best fit for kids who struggle with anxiety. Continue to choose just a few activities that your child is interested in, and be aware that those with predictable schedules and built-in downtime will probably be the most enjoyable for a child who tends to worry. And the best thing you can work into their schedule? More time with you.
Changes in Sleep Patterns – Keep a Regular Bedtime
When it stays light until well past nine o’clock, it can be tempting to let bedtimes slide. While a late night here and there won’t hurt, and can even be an exciting change for some kiddos, keeping a regular bedtime is important for your child’s emotional and physical well-being. Help children wind down at the end of the day with a story or other quiet activity, and avoid screen-time in the evening, which can interfere with sleep patterns. Then tuck them into bed at the regular time. This will help both of you adjust when the early morning schedule of the fall re-starts.
Travel – Plan Ahead and ‘Normalize’ Change
Summer frequently involves some travel, whether that’s a day trip to the beach, a week with the grandparents, or a family vacation to a new destination. Trips like these can be fun, but they can be worrisome for kids with anxiety. It can be helpful to go over the details of the trip with your child, such as layovers and pit stops, the length of travel time, and what the plans are if you run into problems or delays. Bringing along a familiar item like a stuffed animal, blanket, or favorite bedtime story may also help your child to feel safe.
Summer anxiety and the transition into the fall is a common issue for many kids, but by understanding your child’s concerns and preparing for them, you can help your kiddo have a fun, relaxing, and memorable summer and transition into September and beyond.