Promoting Wellbeing in Your Children This Summer: The Importance of Structure
Summer vacation is almost here! Children can barely wait to put away their backpacks and spend their days free. Although this might be true for many, children and parents rely on structure to help guide the day, even in the summer. Structure holds kids and allows them to feel safe, knowing what to expect throughout the day and the week. Although it is crucial for children to have unstructured, free time each day, it is important for there to be some routine and structure (however you define it) to help children manage their emotions. Parents and children should sit down and discuss the summer plans, whether it is camp every day or multiple weeks off in a row, kids need to know what to expect.
Things to consider:
- Know your child. Is your child someone who does better with structure or unstructured time? How do they respond during school year vacations and summers past? Think ahead about summer plans based on who they are.
- Create structure somewhere and communicate it. Children do better when they know what to expect and understand the overall plan.
- Structure doesn't have to mean committing to camps or organized activities but it can include doing expectable activities like reading in the afternoon, attending regular events (story hour at the library on Wednesdays), and having regular days to play with friends.
- Although not vital, many children do best when they participate in some organized activity.
- Make sure your child is getting plenty of time to eat, sleep, read, and play - with peers, with family, alone, and outside.
What to look out for:
- Loneliness. Often, when children lose the structure of school, they can become socially isolated and lonely, which can lead to poor mental health. Stay tuned in to whether your child is maintaining regular, healthy social contact with peers.
- Increased anxiety. Many people (especially children) experience increased anxiety when structure is lost. Look for symptoms of irritability, excessive worry, preoccupation, trouble sleeping, change in appetite (more or less), change in energy (more or less), trouble concentrating, and physical symptoms (belly aches, headaches, etc.).
- Increased screen time. Often children turn to the screen (television, computer, or video games) to help manage boredom over the summer. Although this moderate screen time is reasonable, excessive screen time can create other psychological and physical issues.
For updates and to follow along with the work of the PDSB Mental Health Resource Team, find them on Twitter @MHRTPeel.