For kids, summer is supposed to be the best time of the year — no school and no stress, just lots of swimming and Popsicles. But for children prone to anxiety, summer can be a nightmare. Here’s why some kids are anxious during summer months and how parents can help them relax.
Why Does Summer Cause an Anxiety Spike?
“It’s important to remember that children feel a similar span of emotions as adults,” Dr. Irina Chikvashvili, a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist located in New York tells Parentology. She explains that summertime, with its lack of routine and structure, can spur feelings of anxiety, loneliness, sadness
Chikvashvili says that reasons for worsening anxiety can include:
- Lack of routine
- Lack of physical exercise (spending time indoors with more electronic use)
- Lack of adequate diet and hydration
- Disrupted sleep schedules (due to lack of parental reinforcement and shift of circadian rhythm)
- Changes in friend groups
- Difficulty transitioning from school to summer activities
Another reason children become more anxious is due to a lack of medication. Kids diagnosed with ADHD or anxiety often stop
Anxiety manifests differently in every child. Chikvashvili says parents will commonly recognize signs of anxiety in four categories:
- Physical reactions (headache, stomachache, refusing to eat meals, restlessness, sweating, tension, inability to sleep)
- Emotional responses (crying, overly sensitive, afraid of making minor mistakes, excessive worrying about distant future, nightmares, panic attacks, extreme irritability)
- Thought patterns (overestimating threats and underestimating ability to deal with stressors)
- Behavioral impulses (avoidance, remaining silent, constantly seeking approval from caregivers and friends, increase in meltdowns and tantrums, avoiding social activities, refusing to go outside, asking hypothetical “what if” questions)
How Can Parents Help?
Communication is key in preventing anxiety. Children feel better when they know what’s happening, so set a regular time each week to sit down and talk about what’s going on in upcoming days. Be completely open and transparent; planning in advance instead of doing things last-minute.
“Try to limit time indoors playing video games,” Chikvashvili says. “Ensure your child goes outside, gets plenty of
She suggests, “Summer may also be a wonderful time to expand on interests and strengths which are less available during the busy school year. Activities such as day camp, sports, clubs, and volunteering may be unique opportunities to develop confidence and reassurance in their talents.”
Work hard to strike a balance of not over-scheduling — your family needs time to decompress and reset — but still providing social interaction for your kids. Isolation can quickly lead to increased symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
Finally, Chikvashvili says parents need to take care of your own health, too. “Parents who prioritize their physical and mental health are better pillars of support for children, providing a safe and comfortable environment to ease their child’s anxiety and ensure a smooth summer season.”