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Summer Routines for a Stress-Free Summer

3 min read

Summer activities offer many opportunities for children to create lasting memories and valuable experiences, but sometimes the change in routine can impact their sleeping and eating patterns, and can even impact their mood. Thankfully there are things parents can do to help manage their children’s health and well-being as they transition from the school year to a care-free summer break.

“There are many wonderful activities in the summer for children, but parents should be mindful of how these activities might disrupt their child’s typical routine,” said Mount Nittany Health’s pediatric psychologist Shannon Manley, Ph.D. “Routines are important, especially for anxious children. It may be challenging in the summer, but I recommend trying to keep bedtime within an hour of their usual sleep time when they are in school. It’s also important to try to keep meal times around the same time.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), parents can support their children’s physical and emotional well-being in the summer by giving them opportunities to manage stress through physical activity, healthy thinking, and making healthy choices about how they eat and play.

Keeping children physically active can assist in regulating their sleep, mood, and weight. Luckily, the warmer weather allows for a larger variety of activity options. For example, community pools are open, and many families spend time near lakes or at the beach. Time spent safely in the water is great exercise – and also offers reliefs during hot summer days.

Children are often trying new things during summer, such as going to sleepaway camp for the first time, or traveling to an unfamiliar destination on vacation. With new experiences sometimes come worries, such as, “What if I get lost?” “I won’t be any good at this.” or “What if I don’t make any friends?” Parents can help their children to overcome their worries by encouraging them to use problem-solving skills and logic. They can work with their child to develop a “cope ahead” plan for these new situations so that they feel more prepared and confident. For example, if a child is worried about being homesick at camp, they could write letters home at night reviewing the day’s activities. Using logical reasoning can also help children to identify whether their worries are realistic. Parents can ask their children, “What are you afraid is going to happen?” or “What is the worst that can happen?” Then, they can help to reframe the situation and think about it from a more realistic perspective.

Another way parents can help reduce stress levels in their children is by modeling healthy coping mechanisms when managing their own stress. “I often tell parents that it’s similar to what flight attendants tell us every time we get on a plane – put on your own mask before helping others,” said Dr. Manley.

Screen time can also be challenging to manage in the summer. “It’s important to set expectations about screen time with your child during the summer break,” said Dr. Manley. “Try to make a plan and discuss screen time limits ahead of time to avoid arguments and conflict.”

In addition to spending time outdoors, families can also try new activities in the summer and create new traditions to look forward to each year. We hope summer is exciting and stress-free for you and your family and that these ideas help you make the most of your summer!