-- In the Wild -- Summer vacation anxiety? It happens
Special to the Courier
The days are getting hotter and longer - and the kids are home from school. What's a parent to do?
According to Dr. Christopher A. Flessner of Kent State University, summer vacation usually signals a change in routine, which often leads to anxiety.
"Most kids - like adults - thrive on a routine," said Flessner. "We all like to know what to expect. When something unexpected happens, it can sometimes throw us for a loop. School is all about routine. Kids do the same things day in and day out. In some kids, the change in routine during the summer can lead to increased anxiety. But there are solutions."
By developing a "summer routine" - waking up and going to bed at set times, having meals at set times, keeping a calendar of events for the day, week and month - parents can help children cope with anxiety by knowing just what to expect from day-to-day.
"Boredom is also a concern for children during summer vacation," said Flessner. "When adults get bored, we can find something productive to do, such as going for a bike ride or driving to a store. But kids, particularly younger kids, don't have the same kind of freedom as adults do."
For anxious kids, boredom gives their minds a chance to dwell on all the things in the world that they shouldn't have to worry about - but do. Parents can help combat this boredom by working with them to develop a list of activities they can post on the refrigerator. When boredom sets in, kids can refer to the list that they helped create and play some of the fun games or activities. Keeping a basic schedule during the summer will also help the family to identify potential "boredom zones" and come up with plans to fight off boredom.
"And then there is the month of August, which represents the end of summer fun and the start of the new school year. Suddenly the kids have to prepare for new teachers, new classes, and maybe even making new friends," reported Flessner. "For anxious kids, August can be particularly difficult because their school-related worries can start to creep up."
These worries tend to get worse closer to when school begins. Parents can help by making the "going back to school" process as fun as possible, such as allowing their children pick out pens and pencils or folders that they like, among other things.
Parents can also begin to help their child prepare for school by shifting their summer schedule to more closely fit with what the child's school schedule will be like, including adjusting waking and sleeping times and serving meals at "school year" times.
Finally, parents can help to reassure their child that a lot of other kids are nervous about the first day of school. A little reassurance can go along way.