Summertime and the livin’ is easy… well, that’s the plan but, for many children and their parents, the thought of the long weeks of the holidays without the safety net of the school regime can be daunting.
At Childline, we know that children and young people can feel anxious during the summer. They miss their usual routine, their friends and, sometimes, the safety and structure of school.
Parents tell us they are worried about keeping their children entertained for such a long amount of time on a budget. They can be concerned about older siblings minding younger ones, children being lonely or being in potentially unsafe situations when they play outside or online.
Work through some scenarios, suggests ISPCC Clinical Lead Bree O’Neill, and that way both parents and children will be more prepared for whatever challenges the summer may bring.
It is a different dynamic over the summer and parents need to gear themselves up for that. Think of the family and consider what each person might need – the aim is to try to ensure everyone’s needs are met and everyone’s limits are accepted.
Don’t judge yourself, says Bree. Chances are your children will have more treats and screentime than usual, but it is the holidays and that is normal. However, she does recommend that parents try to stick to some form of routine over the summer. This helps provide structure for children and parents, many of whom are trying to juggle work and childcare.
Despite the long days, children still need their sleep. Yes, it’s good to have fun on holidays, says Bree, but it will be a nightmare trying to get children back on track three days before school starts. Instead, she recommends bringing bedtimes back about a fortnight before the return to school.
For those children who suffer from anxiety, the long summer holidays can exacerbate these feelings, says Bree. ISPCC and our volunteers on the Childline 24/7 listening service are always here to help.
Bree believes that the summer offers a very good opportunity to focus on mental and emotional health for both children and parents. The time away from the usual constraints of school, exams and activities offers children, young people and their parents an opportunity to take stock, breathe and put steps into place that help to bolster wellness.
ISPCC offers three free online Digital Mental Health programmes designed for teenagers experiencing anxiety and parents/carers of both teens and younger children. These early intervention programmes are fully supported by volunteers, take one hour a week and can be completed at the user’s leisure within a 12-week timeframe.
For more information on ISPCC’s Digital Mental Health programmes, go to https://www.ispcc.ie/guided-digital-programmes/