Four ideas to support your child’s mental health this summer

The mental health of our children is a national emergency. After two years of the pandemic, the situation is getting worse.

As the calendar changes from May to June, we hear a lot about the “summer slide” in academia, the idea that without regular academic rigor, students’ basic learning skills are atrophied. We must also urgently address the summer decline in students’ mental health.

While summer vacations may offer a break from some of the stress students face during the year, it may also mark more dangerous times when school structure and routine, often the first line of defense for students’ mental health, are replaced. with relatively unstructured and unsupervised summer activities.

For some, this break offers new experiences and growth, but for many it is a challenging time, with additional stressors in their home that can create or worsen mental health problems.

As summer approaches, now is the time to focus on ways to help your child maintain and improve their mental health. Here are four simple tips that can help.

Avoid too much unregulated time on social media

According to a recent study of more than 6,500 adolescents in the United States between the ages of 12 and 15, those who spend more than three hours a day using social media may be at increased risk for mental health problems.

While it’s probably unrealistic to completely stop your teens from using social media, talk to your kids about how they use it. It is important for them to understand that the use of social media is a privilege, not a right. Most children greatly underestimate their time in front of the screen and need help setting limits.

Social media triggers dopamine, a natural “good mood chemical” that keeps children engaged with their devices. To counteract dopamine-induced attraction, encourage other things that bring them joy. They can be as simple as being with friends, playing with a dog or playing sports.

E-sports may seem like a dream job, but professionals are constantly struggling with mental stress

Get up, get out and move

Give priority to physical health and encourage children to go out every day. Time spent in nature and the sun can improve mental health and sharpen knowledge. Also, encourage children to take part in activities they enjoy, such as gardening, hiking, sports or just unstructured play – anything that keeps them active. Most parents have to work during the summer and cannot meet their children’s flexible schedules. If you have a community of friends, family or neighbors, engage them and offer to change control groups of children, which will make time easier for everyone.

Learn compassion

Compassion is an important socio-emotional skill that begins to develop in early childhood and is essential for health and success throughout life. Recent studies have shown that random acts of kindness have a strong impact on well-being and, encouragingly, younger givers report higher levels of overall well-being and psychological health.

Talk to your child about what compassion means to them and how they can give back to their community. Engage with your children in acts of compassion, such as helping an elderly neighbor carry bags or take care of their yard, volunteer at a food bank, or something else that helps others without expecting anything in return. .

The more we can get our children to “detach” from constantly thinking about their own problems and focus more on the well-being of others, the better they will be.

Encourage routine

Help your child maintain a routine to create an easy transition back to school and improve overall mental health during the summer. This includes dressing, eating and a consistent diet throughout the week. There’s nothing wrong with letting your child sleep on some days or just relaxing, but try to get into a morning and night routine that is as close to their school schedule as possible, especially a month before school starts.

And here’s a bonus tip we can all hear these days: Take care of yourself! You can’t be a good resource for your children if you don’t take care of yourself first.

John Chapman is the co-founder and president of EVERFI Inc., an educational technology company in Washington, DC. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

We welcome your thoughts in a letter to the editor. See the guidelines and send your letter here.

Leave a Comment