Let’s Talk About Summer Wellness
About the author: Natasha Auch is a Psychiatric Social Worker at the Human Services Center. Natasha earned her master’s degree in Social Work at the University of South Dakota and has been employed at the HSC since 2012.
“School’s Out for the Summer”…that famous tune that children all love to sing as they near their “summer vacation.” Summer can be a wonderful time of year filled with sunshine, extra play time, hanging out with friends, going swimming, fishing, or some other fun adventures. While summer seems exciting for most, others are left with feelings of uncertainty, loneliness, boredom, and chaos.
It’s important as caretakers of children to be aware that summer break can be hard, and it’s important to ensure kids are taking care of their wellness this summer.
Let’s run through a brief Mental Wellness Checklist:
- Do they get adequate sleep each night?
- Are the eating nutritious/balanced meals?
- Have they seen their friends or interacted with same age peers?
- Are they taking a break from the couch to get some physical activity each day?
- Is there any structure or expectations for them throughout the day?
Let’s talk a bit more about each of these:
On average kids should be getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. During the summer, children tend to either stay up way too late, or sleep in way too long. It’s important to monitor children’s sleep patterns to ensure they are getting adequate sleep on a regular basis. Sleeping too little can leave children feeling tired, are likely to be more irritable, and will have a harder time taking directions. Sleeping too long can leave them feeling sluggish and lacking motivation.
Over the summer, with the lack of routine and sometimes very busy schedules, children can either eat too much or too little and go for quick/processed foods. Eating a balanced diet is important to mental wellness. Try to keep a stock of healthy options available for children throughout the summer, promote eating at mealtimes, and limiting snacking.
Summer can be lonely for several children when they are used to seeing their friends/peers during the school day. Set up some playdates or look into summer programs through the school, local churches, or nearby communities.
Get up and Play
It may sound appealing to children to just watch tv, play video games, or hang out in their room all day, but all the sitting around time can lead to boredom, feeling down, and lacking purpose. It is important to “get up and play” at least 30 minutes a day. Exercise creates endorphins which are natural “happy chemicals.”
Having a routing during the summer can be much more challenging as the family is juggling various summer activities, trying to get kids to go to sleep at a decent time “But mom, it’s still light out”, and having more ‘free’ time during the day. However, routines are important for children to feel more safe and secure. It can help them feel motivated and increase their self-worth. Some children will need more structure such as an hour by hour activity guide/checklist, and some children will do fine with having a to-do list for the day. It is important to also limit screen time for children, and encourage other activities like reading, being creative, completing a project, getting outside, etc.
Help children take care of their summer wellness, by promoting good sleep and eating habits, encouraging exercise, interacting with peers, and establishing a routine. While it is important for children to maintain their mental wellness, these steps alone may not be enough to help your child. If you feel like your child is struggling with more significant behavioral or emotional difficulties, please reach out to a mental health professional for additional help.
Find local community-based mental health services in your area by visiting: https://dss.sd.gov/behavioralhealth/agencycounty.aspx. Services can be in-person or via telehealth and financial assistance is available.
The mission of the Human Services Center (HSC) is to provide individuals who are mentally ill or chemically dependent with effective, individualized professional treatment enabling them to achieve their highest level of personal independence in the most therapeutic environment.
To read previous editions of the Mental Health Memo visit https://dss.sd.gov/keyresources/news.aspx#mhmemo.