How are young people’s mental health in the summer holidays?

a guide for parents

For many young people and students, the summer holidays are a blessing, especially during the first couple of weeks. After months of coursework and exams, having those lie-ins and a chance to relax is always very welcome. Some may be excited for new trips and holidays, as well as socialising and catching up on old hobbies.

Parents may observe improvements in their child’s mood. Regarding mental health, some students find that the very thing to improve it is a well-earned break, making the summer holidays the perfect solution. However, this is not necessarily the case for everyone, and some parents may see something else entirely. Other young people find their own mental health becomes more of a challenge during these long breaks. From a sudden lack of a day-day routine to feelings of isolation, the summer holidays can become a little more daunting, thus affecting their mental health. For a parent, this can not only be an upsetting thing to see, but rather surprising.

Why can our mental health dip in the summer holidays?

So now we’re half way through the holidays, the novelty and excitement can begin to wear off. As a result, issues surrounding mental health may become more apparent. There are a few reasons why young people might experience this dip, and here are some pointers to look out for:

  • Boredom: This can lead people to experience dips in their mood and feeling unmotivated.
  • Anxiety for next year: Transitioning into next year can be daunting and lead to a fear of the unknown. Children may be faced with changes in seating arrangements, different classmates (and the possibility of losing friends), and different teachers. Not to mention the work becoming more challenging. This can all cause anxiety!
  • Lack of the routine provided by school: Probably one of the bigger reasons for these dips is a sudden lack of routine. After losing a routine, people can struggle to stay grounded and enjoy days off. Sometimes, it can then bring forward negative and maladaptive thinking, e.g. ‘things seem a bit pointless’.
  • Lack of school resources: This also includes losing the support of a trusted staff member that has been there for the student throughout the year.
  • Inconsistent sleeping pattern: As children stick to quite a rigorous school timetable and subsequent bedtimes, students may slip into the habit of staying up late and getting up late during the holidays. Of course this can seem appealing to anyone, but it can be damaging after a while.
  • Waiting for results: Whether it’s a GCSE, A-level or degree results, waiting for months to found out what their grades are can be exceedingly stressful! It can encourage overthinking and catastrophic thinking.
  • Losing social contact: After spending each day surrounded by familiar faces and friends, to have that suddenly taken away can lead to feelings of lonliness and isolation.

What can parents do to help?

As we have stated, seeing your child’s mental health progressively worsen can be very upsetting and stressful for both a parent and the child. So what can parents do to help?

  • Fill the day with enjoyable activities: Easier said than done, especially for 6 weeks. It can be as simple as watching a film as a family, or playing video games together. Forms of escapism can help ensure your child is not stuck in their own head all day. Encouraging them to maybe pick a skill or hobby they want to improve over the weeks helps them work towards something and avoid feelings of ‘pointlessness’.
  • Setting up a routine: Having structure throughout term and then having none at all can be distressing. Try setting up a routine for everyone, such as ensuring a similar time for three meals a day. Having at least one sit down meal together daily would encourage this further.
  • Consistent sleeping pattern: Setting up a bedtime of course depends on the age of the child. For older children, encourage consistent bedtimes is sometimes all that is needed. Talking to them about what time they’re getting to sleep can also help support a young person to aim for a healthier sleeping pattern.
  • Prep for next year: Discussing any anxieties your child has can help alleviate some of that anxiety. By discussing it, a young person can mentally prepare for next year, and it may seem less daunting. Encouraging them to do a little bit of work (e.g a day a week) can help them feel academically prepared. Keep in mind, however, they’re having a break for a reason and they need time to recuperate!
  • Going outside!: Getting outside into the fresh air for walks, physical activity, hobbies can really benefit a young person’s mental health.
  • Encourage socialising: having a social life is very important, including for children! Maybe look into local clubs and social events your child and their friends can get involved in.
  • A balanced diet: Similarly to the sleeping pattern, something as simple has a healthy diet can really impact our mental wellbeing.

Can Brighter Life Therapy help?

Sometimes, daily routines and techniques aren’t quite enough, and professional interventions are needed instead. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common way to tackle these thoughts and routines with professional help. Brighter Life Therapy provides fast access to CBT and counselling treatment, which you can read about here. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0118 40 50 108, or by emailing info@brighterlifetherapy.co.uk.

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