What’s that Porgy and Bess song “Summer time and the livin is easy”…? You may be thinking that certainly doesn’t describe my summer so far. Many parents are expecting with school out and the pressure of schedules and homework on the backburner their children will be calmer and less anxious. While that might be true for some, summer can have its own set of stressors that can be challenging to navigate particularly if your child is already prone to anxiety.
Here are a couple common scenarios and suggestions for dealing with them:
Boredom: Your child(ren) are either not attending camp or their camps don’t start until later in the summer. Subsequently they are bored, depending on you for their entertainment, not moving from the couch and/or fighting with their siblings. If this is the case in your household you might consider these solutions:
- Have some degree of structure to each day. Children who are particularly prone to anxiety need structure and a loose summer schedule may be particularly stressful. If possible have a written schedule that you review the night before.
- Have them chose a project to work on. This can include among other things writing their own story (there are many sites online where they can design and print their own stories), gardening, organizing their room, or creating a LEGO structure. Most of these activities can be adjusted to your child’s age and interests and provide not only fun but a sense of accomplishment when completed.
- Schedule family outings. Have your child(ren) pick somewhere they’d like to go and plan for it as something to look forward to during the week. Don’t force them to do an activity or go anywhere that clearly causes them anxiety — even if they have done it in the past and enjoyed it. If they are having difficulty thinking about where they’d like to go, give them three options and have them chose from those.
Summer Camp: Just like going to school, camp can cause a lot of concern and worry even if they’ve been there before and enjoyed it. In order to ease some of the stress you might consider the following:
- Set up a time prior to camp for you and your child to meet with the director and have them outline what the day will be like and if possible who their counselors will be. If they haven’t attended this camp before, walk around the site so they have a visual of where they’ll be going.
- Let the camp know how your child experiences anxiety and things that have helped in the past with these transitions.
- Don’t allow your child’s anxiety to derail them from attending camp. Be empathetic and listen to their fears but make it clear that your expectation is that they will attend. Children often adjust very quickly once a parent has left the scene and they proceed to enjoy their day.
- If possible, minimize the number of camps your child will attend. A new camp each week is often too much to handle for children with anxiety.
Summer while a wonderful season can have its own challenges. By trying to anticipate issues ahead of time and prepare accordingly you may actually be able to have the type of summer you had hoped for.
Mimi Ezray, LCSW, MPH, is the Director of Children’s Clinical Services at Parents Place on the Peninsula.