Clinical: Summer Wellness
Summertime evokes pleasant childhood memories for many of us- riding bikes around the neighborhood, hearing the jingling of the ice cream truck, running under sprinklers, cannonballing into a pool, playing outside until the streetlights turn on. 

Then we grow up and start “adulting”. Though we can be grateful we aren’t shoveling snow and it’s not dark at 4 pm, there are stressors associated with summer for many of us.

See if you can relate to any of these statements:
“Summer is here and I’m not sure what I’m doing about child care.”
“My son’s ADHD medication is decreased for the summer and he is acting out.”
“I’m a college student and I can’t find a job.”
“I plan lots of trips in the summer, which causes a lot of anxiety for me.”
“I don’t feel like I can really relax in the summer because there is so much I should be doing.”
“I suffer from depression and feel ashamed if I stay in bed for a weekend in the summer; in the winter, no one asks questions.”

We may not be wearing seven layers of wool sweaters, but summertime can still be uncomfortable. There are things we can do to prepare for summer and maintain or achieve a more positive summer experience.

If you are in therapy, don’t stop attending. Taking a break for the summer isn’t always a wise plan. Talk with your therapist about revisiting your schedule to include vacation time and plan any breaks from therapy sessions. 

Make a bucket list. Make a list of no more than 6 goals for the summer. These can be travel goals, household projects, or trying something new like volunteering or an outdoor sport or activity. Setting goals can help you feel focused and grounded.

Rest. The increase in daylight and changes in daily routine often lead to later nights and earlier mornings. Try to maintain some stability in your routine and sleep patterns.

Structure your time. Try to structure your time, even for recreational and fun activities. Giving yourself some structure will help you balance work, recreation, and bucket list goals.

Take a “stay-cation”! Vacationing and travel in general requires a great deal of planning and effort. Consider taking some time to relax and enjoy your local community and home. It’s a great way to rejuvenate and rest without the jetlag.

If you are having trouble sleeping, experiencing significant anxiety, losing weight, or feeling depressed in the summer, you’re not alone. Reach out to family, friends, and professionals to see how you can access therapeutic services to support your mental health.

Take care of yourself. Even in the summertime. And in winter, spring, and fall.
Tips and Strategies to Support a Smooth Summer Vacation  
Tip 1:Research

Look for free programs in your town that can give your child a physical and creative outlet for the summer. You can look for programs: 

  • online at your town’s Parks and Recreation website
  • at your child’s school, check with the family advocate or staff member 
  • on a bulletin board at your local grocery story
  • at the pediatrician's office
  • through online behavioral support groups - ask the pro’s! 
Tip 2: Visual Schedule
Create a schedule for your family that will allow for downtime and personal choice, while creating structure and clear expectations for your child. If they will be with a babysitter or starting a new routine, a picture schedule will ease any anxiety and help your child transition into their summer schedule smoothly 

Suggestions for routines to include that will support consistency between pre-k school routines and a summer schedule: 

  • Breakfast
  • Tooth Brushing
  • Free choice (play independently: toys, games, etc) 
  • Lunch time (and Naptime, if child is still 0-5 years old) 
  • Outside play
  • TV time (before dinner, avoid late-night screen time to promote better sleep) 
  • Family-style dinner 
  • “Mommy & Me” / “Daddy & Me” special one-on-one time with parent
  • Night-time choices: books, music, writing in journal, ‘calming’ activities such as yoga/stretching 
  • Shower / bath time 

Visual schedules are particularly helpful for children with autism, but really every child benefits from clarity around their schedule and what they should expect for the day. Children who have experienced trauma, have anxiety, or have educational delays also greatly benefit from these visual reminders.
Tip 3: Positive Talk

As summer approaches, talk with your family about any changes in schedule or routine. Prepare them with positive expectations that identify the benefits, such as: they may learn a new skill, make new friends, get to spend more time together with siblings, etc. Avoid negative talk such as ‘I don’t want you stuck inside all summer’ or ‘I don’t know what to do with them...’
  Tip 4 : Start Something New 
Summer is a great time to start a new healthy habit, such as ‘Family Fitness Fridays’, eating more meals together, or a weekly game night. Let your child help plan the dinner menu for the week, while assigning them small, simple chores that they can help with. If you have multiple children, set a schedule for who gets to pick the game or movie for a family fun night. These game nights are a great way to practice turn-taking and social skills, in preparation for returning to school.

Remember that ‘losing’ is an important skill to practice - don’t always let your child win! Learning how to lose gracefully is something that takes practice and encouragement. As the parent, you must emotionally guide your child through calming their frustration to recognize the joy of playing a game, regardless of the outcome. You can model this by losing a game yourself and making calm, positive comments such as: ‘that’s okay! I still had fun’, ‘winning isn’t everything, I’m just glad we played together’, and ‘I can try again, no problem!’