4 Ways To Tend To Your Child’s Mental Health This Summer

Written by Michael Creekmore, Jr. LPC, CPCS

Every year I attended school, the last few weeks of school were always the best. No homework, no tests, class parties in every class and all the adults in the building just seemed so much nicer. I was entering my favorite season of the year and school was about to be on pause for the next 3 months; I couldn’t wait! My brain could finally get some much needed rest and relaxation.

We’re at that very place in time, right now. School’s Out For Summer!! What does that mean for you and your child? Summer vacations, summer camps, family reunions, trips to the pool, trips to the beach, backyard barbecues & plenty of FREE TIME, right?

Whether we want to admit it or not, many families relish the time schools are in session. Trying to find structured time or ways to keep your kids occupied are much easier to accomplish when they are attending school Monday through Friday. Since that time is coming to an end, let’s talk about a few ways we can tend to the mental health of our children and still enjoy the summertime.

Set Screen Time

Many kids love technology; I mean they love it to the point of nonstop use. From cellphones, to tablets, laptops & desktops, there is no shortage of technology use. Many argue that too much time is spent using technology. Did you know there are apps to address this issue? Apps that offer parental control and enable the ability to set specific screen time for your children. Go to your App Store or Google Play store and enter the words “Screen Time,” watch the apps appear. Even though your kids may be upset with you and accuse you of ruining their summer, you will inadvertently introduce them to a world outside of their screen.

Engage in Activites

Take this school-free opportunity to introduce your children to activities of your childhood. What were some of the things you did when you were your children’s age? More often than not, depending on the age of your child, this may be considered “lame”, but take a chance because it just might work. Connecting with your child(ren) in this way, opens the lines of communication and might even lead to a parent-child TikTok moment. Engaging in activities gives you the opportunity to learn more about your child(ren) and vice versa. As this summer approaches, try not to shy away from opportunities as they arise.

Check-In/ Have Hard Conversations

This may be the least favorite of the tips offered but may have the greatest impact on your child. The world can be a very scary, confusing and unpredictable place for adults… imagine being a child in the year 2022. There is a need for navigation and that navigation can come in the form of hard conversations on difficult topics (ex: violence, racism, bodily autonomy, war, divorce, or simply talking about feelings). Children are exposed to so much, so soon. Regardless of how much we attempt to insulate them from society ills, we are in constant competition with their friends, social media and television. Having hard conversations gives us the opportunity to contest potential misinformation and hopefully guide our children down a path of less stress, drama, and disappointment. Even though these conversations can be difficult, they are often necessary and can start with a simple check-in. The more often you check-in, the more your children realize your interest in their life and may be more willing to share.

Encourage Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset is the belief that a person’s intelligence and talents can be developed over time with dedication. For some, it’s a change in perspective. When your children are faced with challenges and hard tasks, it is this mindset that helps them overcome or work through those times and learn from the experience. Here are a few ways to help your child develop a growth mindset:

  • Struggle is a part of the process. Remind your child that “the struggle,” is a part of learning. That feeling that they experience when they have accomplished something that was difficult can reinforce the desire to learn again.
  • Mistakes are ok. No one is perfect and EVERYONE makes mistakes. Be sure you reiterate this, especially when your child seems to be having a difficult time. That friendly reminder can ease anxiety and lessen frustration.
  • Embrace challenges. Frame challenges as the real fun and opportunity to build/exercise your brain muscles. Tell them challenges create chances to learn more instead of doing easy things… easy things are boring and “kiddie-stuff” right?
  • Struggle is a part of the process. Remind your child that “the struggle,” is a part of learning. That feeling that they experience when they have accomplished something that was difficult can reinforce the desire to learn again.
  • Mistakes are ok. No one is perfect and EVERYONE makes mistakes. Be sure you reiterate this, especially when your child seems to be having a difficult time. That friendly reminder can ease anxiety and lessen frustration.
  • Embrace challenges. Frame challenges as the real fun and opportunity to build/exercise your brain muscles. Tell them challenges create chances to learn more instead of doing easy things… easy things are boring and “kiddie-stuff” right?
  • Harness the power of YET. There is power in the word “Yet.” It opens things up to endless possibilities and allows your child to NOT give up or close that chapter. Think about the last time you said “yet” to your child. It probably sounded a little something like: “We’re not there, yet.” Do you remember how your child responded? Did that word stop him/her from asking again or did it seem like they were more motivated to get the answer they wanted to whatever they were asking? “Yet” can be a bridge to a desired outcome instead of a locked door. Incorporate its use to encourage growth and build bridges to learning experiences.

As the summer season approaches we realize the familiarity and comfort of your school environment may not be available. So even though your school may have turned off the Rhithm Wellness Check-In for the summer, you as a parent can recreate it, by asking your child about how they feel mentally, emotionally, energetically, physically, and socially every day. You and your child can access the Rhithm Toolkit and watch regulating videos and well-being lessons together, discussing what works and hasn’t seemed to work as of yet. This past school year has been a lot for adults and students. Try to remember that your children may not always know how to verbally express their needs or share their fears but some of the tips in this article may assist in tending to your child’s mental health. Have a great summer and enjoy!

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