It is hard to believe but the end of the school year is just around the corner! Parents and children have a myriad of mixed emotions at this time of year. As parents, you may be feeling stressed and overwhelmed by all the activities associated with the end of the school year such as concerts, projects, parties, sports, etc. On the other hand, you may be feeling excited and looking forward to some downtime from all the structured activities allowing you to slow down and spend some time with your family. You may also be feeling anxious about the upcoming summer and wondering how you will entertain the children at home, which camps to sign up for, and how to fit in that family trip to the lake.
Your children are also facing their own set of mixed emotions. Some may be feeling joyful about being out of school and ready for summer fun. Other children may be feeling anxious about not seeing school friends over the summer, uncertain about summer plans, or worry over what class(es) they will be in next year. In the article “Handling Transitions” Dr. Alex Lickerman wrote of his childhood experience “When I was a child, I was afraid to go to summer camp. Most kids found the prospect exciting and the experience fun, but I dreaded it. What would the activities be like? Who would my counselors be? What other kids were going? Would I be made to swim if I didn’t want to?” If we take the time to tune into our child’s feelings as well as our own, we can help reduce the stress of the end of the school year and look forward to the lazy (or crazy) days of summer! Note that children and adolescents may not share their worries in the same ways that adults do (e.g., “talking it out”). The following “red flags” may indicate your child is struggling with anxiety regarding the upcoming transition:
- Report of physical complaints (e.g., headaches, stomach aches)
- Increased irritability/behavioral challenges
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Changes in sleep/appetite
- Increased rigidity/inflexibility
- Avoidance behaviors
For older children, a transition point such as starting middle or high school can cause them to worry. For some children, these worries can progress into more debilitating anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders among children and adolescents. “There are many different types of anxiety disorders, with different symptoms. But they all share one common trait — prolonged, intense anxiety that is out of proportion to the present situation and affects a person’s daily life and happiness.” http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/anxiety-disorders.html
To read more about anxiety in children, check out Kristin Weir’s article, “Brighter Futures for Anxious.”
We have also compiled some articles we hope will be helpful in creating a smooth transition from the school year to summer break for you and your family. In addition, we found some great websites for family fun summer activities in NH, cool summer reading, camps for all ages and interests, and some fun frozen treat recipes!
Resources – Helping with Transitions
Some helpful tips to aid in this transition time, especially for younger children, include:
Resources – Fun stress-free summer activities for young children and tweens:
Resources – Summer camp offerings and family activities in New Hampshire and Maine
All of us at Portsmouth Neuropsychology Center would like to wish you all a stress-free transition into a warm and sunny summer!