When school lets out for summer break, kids often have ample opportunity for fun and relaxation. But there’s also potential to get into trouble.
“If we look at it in terms of continuity, during the school year, kids have a busy schedule. Then comes summer,” said Michael Weinberg, PhD, LPC, senior manager of Behavioral Health Services at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center. “If you have too much free time, that’s when people get into trouble.”
Weinberg said by October, Behavioral Health Services begins receiving referral calls about kids who are now doing poorly in school and or having attendance problems.
Some kids simply find it difficult to transition from sleeping in and doing nothing all day to going back to the routine and rigor of school. Others have gotten into more troublesome habits, like substance abuse.
The best thing for parents to do is to keep their kids busy in the summer, Weinberg said. The level of structure the parent provides should depend on the age of the child. Younger children need their parents to provide more structure. Teenagers should be given more leeway. They need to be encouraged to develop their own schedule that allows them time for fun and productiveness. Bottom line – kids need structure that is age appropriate. Without it their lives will more than likely lead to boredom and restlessness.
“They need to have a sense they belong and be part of something,” Weinberg said. “They also need choices – to have some freedom. Summer break, as in every aspect of life, needs to have some enjoyment. As a parent, you can help them acknowledge their self-worth or esteem, accept accountability and responsibility and also meet their need for enjoyment.”
He suggests families try to commit to spending one meal a day together discussing the events and activities that took place or plan to occur.
Weinberg said it’s important to examine these five issues:
- Esteem: What activities can they do that will help build good esteem? Volunteer work, crafts, or accomplishing tasks in the home – painting a room, helping to put order to the garage or shed, yard sales – and being a real help to others.
- Belonging: Join clubs, recreational summer group activities, library book reading activities or educational or faith-based programs.
- Freedom: Time to do what they want to do or just being spontaneous. Help them to make choices, give alternatives to activities in which they make the decisions.
- Fun: As much as possible. Inside and outdoor recreation, such as swimming, camping, biking, hiking, road trips. Evening and/or weekend family time together. Library reading clubs for the younger children and book reading goals for the older kids.
- Safety: Help them to develop a structure that begins with a time to start their day, keep active be safe, set age-appropriate curfews and reasonable bed times.
“Ask questions versus assume. Listen carefully to the answers rather than interrupting while they are talking. Then summarize what they say in your own words. This is powerful – it tells the kid you’re listening. It’s teaches the kid to be a good listener,” Weinberg said. “Consistency is extremely important. Don’t say you’re going to do something and then not to it. And don’t give up on them.”
Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Programs are offered in group settings for teens ages 13-17. The groups meet three times a week – two sessions with just kids and one that includes kids and parents. It is a therapeutic program that can have a powerful impact into lives of our children and their families.
Warning signs that your child may be wandering down the wrong path this summer include isolation, not being accountable for their whereabouts, unusual intensity or frequency of moodiness, irritability and/or aggressive behavior, excessive sleep or lack of sleep, changes in eating behaviors and alcohol or drug related behaviors.
Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Programs are available at the locations below. For more information and a free assessment, contact (602) 254-4357.
- Banner Thunderbird Medical Center 5555 W. Thunderbird Road Glendale, AZ 85306
- Banner Behavioral Health Outpatient Services 1600 W. Chandler Blvd., Suite 180 Chandler, AZ 85224
- Banner Behavioral Health Hospital Outpatient Services 8722 E. San Alberto Dr., Suite 100 Scottsdale, AZ 85258