by Cheryl Vines
Last month, one of Sara’s blog’s focused on teachers and end-of-the-school year activities. Now that school has come to a close for most students, I decided to focus on how parents and connected community members can help to support student wellbeing during the summer break.
When I was growing up, like most students, I looked forward to the summer break because it provided time away from school and all its rules and structures. Summer break is often eagerly anticipated by students, providing most with an opportunity to recharge and engage in activities that are often not possible during the school year. However, for some students, summer break can be a turbulent time bringing about challenges that can adversely impact their physical, social and emotional wellbeing. These challenges to wellbeing can include things such as lack of structure and routine, loneliness, inactivity, boredom, tumultuous family and/or social relationships, and an overall disconnect from their usual support systems.
Given the potential challenges that some students can face during summer break, it can be helpful to support students during this period by creating systems and structures that can help to promote their positive wellbeing. Below are some ways in which parents and connected community members can support student wellbeing during summer break:
Structure and routine can provide students with a sense of stability and security, especially during summer break when many of their regular habits and schedules are disrupted. Parents can encourage students to develop summer break habits and schedules that might include them waking up and going to bed on a regular schedule, limiting screen and television time, and engaging in positive physical and social activities throughout the day.
Participating in activities, hobbies, summer jobs, and sports during summer break are excellent ways to provide students with structures and routines that can help keep them occupied, motivated, and engaged with their peers and others. More importantly, these activities can provide students with opportunities for personal growth and self-efficacy, social connection and a sense of belonging, and new learning experiences. Parents and connected community members can play a role by helping students identify activities that align with their interests and by helping to ensure students have access to the resources needed to participate.
Provide Mental Health Support
As mentioned above, summer break can be challenging for some students due to the time away from school and the sense of connection and support systems that school often provides. Some students might experience isolation, anxiety, and/or depression. Parents and connected community members should be on the lookout for any warning signs that could indicate that a student might be struggling with their mental health and work to connect them with timely support and services. Parents can also collaborate with mental health professionals or school counselors to seek support, express concerns, and monitor student progress.
Given the often-busy schedules of most families, communication is a key element in supporting student wellbeing during summer break. Parents can keep a regular check on their children through text or phone calls, getting small updates about their day, and ensuring they have access to appropriate resources. For parents of younger children who may be attending summer camp or some other short-term summer program, it is important that you establish communication with key staff members who are working with and supporting your children in their summer programming. You should feel comfortable asking for updates on how your child is doing and connecting with them if you feel there might be a problem, or you have a concern. While summer programming is meant to be exciting and fun, for some children the transition from school to summer programs with staff, children, activities, and structures they may not be familiar with can be anxiety producing. It is important to establish good communication with your child about what they are experiencing to ensure their wellbeing is being attended to during their summer break.
Summer break is an essential time for students to rest, recharge, and engage in activities that they don't get to do during the academic year. However, it is essential to ensure that students are attending to their physical, social, emotional, and mental wellbeing during this period. By providing students with support and resources, parents and connected community members can ensure that students thrive during the summer break and return to school ready to learn, grow and succeed.
Do you have any other strategies that you have used during summer break to support your child’s wellbeing? We would love to hear about the strategies you used.