6 Ways to Support Mental Health in Kids Over Summer Break
Recently, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a pediatric mental health a state of emergency. With the increase of behavioral cases, it is a major concern doctors have from a year of chronic pandemic stress.
And now, summer is upon us and we can have more of a chance to focus on this potential issue with our kids.
So how do we do it?
For some kids, lazy days on the couch watching television and playing video games are top on the list of how to spend summer break. It’s what we may have yearned for as well in our younger years!
But intertwined with these idle, wishful days can be creative stimuli geared towards connecting socially with others, feeding their brains and bodies, and building their confidence.
Fill summer with fun as well as feelings and encourage your child to grow even when they aren’t in school!
Here are 6 ways to support kids’ mental health over summer break:
- Volunteer. Helping others is a meaningful way to open kids’ minds to how they can make a difference in the world. Consider allowing kids to pick out an extra item or two at the grocery store for the food pantry, to donate gently used toys or clothes to those in need, or to make a casserole to bring over to an elderly neighbor.
- Take Time to Reflect. After a long day at school, many kids aren’t in the mood to talk in the evening. Take advantage of slower days during the summer to reflect on the past year. Pack a picnic and bring writing and drawing paper along. After lunch, ask everyone to write a poem, draw a picture, share a story, or even just write down words that express what it was like to live through the pandemic. (This can also be a good exercise to do before school starts to let out anxieties and fears.)
- Encourage Something New. During the school year, it can be difficult (and exhausting) to think about adding one more activity to the day. But the summer? It can be a great time to try out a new instrument, go fishing, rent a paddle board or kayak for the day, take a painting class, or watch an in-person sports game. Aim for new experiences to broaden their environment and interests.
- Plan Active Play Dates. Strive for exercise and movement during playdates such as putting out the Slip ’N Slide and water balloons, meeting at a playground or skatepark, going for a bike ride, or swimming at a local pool. Not only is this good for the body, but kids can make great memories doing cannon balls in the water or building a fort with friends in the backyard.
- Offer Healthy Foods. What’s better than a bag of potato chips while watching tv? Well…when it comes to health, a lot. What kids consume can affect mental health (such as anxiety and depression from a processed and sugar-filled diet) so opt for nutrient dense food when possible. Be mindful of what kids commonly want to reach for when bored (such as chips, sweets, and sodas) and replace with healthy and easily accessible options like pre-made celery with peanut butter and raisins, peeled oranges, washed berries, sliced cheese, trail mix, hard boiled eggs, carrots and hummus, and homemade iced tea.
- Let Them Make Choices. Summer can be all about freedom for kids, so encourage them to make good choices as they enjoy that flexibility.Selecting what chores they want to do for the summer, picking the recipe for dinner every Tuesday night, or selecting a hotel on the family’s road trip can all support growth in their decision making (even if you have to give them 2-3 choices to pick from!). Summer can be fun for kids’ bodies and helpful for their minds – both essential for good mental health. So while a marathon day of a favorite television show may be on the top of summer activities, should sprinkling in some creative fun focused on keeping them mentally engaged be some of yours?
For naturopathic support in holistic counseling and children’s art therapy, please call us at (303) 688-6698 or click here to learn more about our mental health services.
The CNMA office provides naturopathic care, testing, massage, and holistic counseling to those in Castle Rock, Castle Pines, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Centennial, Parker, Larkspur, Monument, Colorado Springs, and the greater Denver metro area. For those outside of these areas, virtual appointments are available.