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Making the Most of Summer Break for Children: A Parent’s Guide


By: Rachel Crickmar

The allure of summer break is irresistible: long, lazy days, fun-filled activities, and a break from the school year’s relentless pace. Parents dream of heart-to-heart talks with their children, stress-free days without the demands of homework and carpool lines, and time for bonding and relaxation. However, the reality often doesn’t match this idyllic vision, especially for parents of children with mental health needs, who may face unique challenges during this change in routine.

Creating a structured, engaging, and supportive summer break for these children requires intentional and strategic planning. Here are four strategies to help you design a summer that supports your child’s development and strengthens your family bonds.

  1. Create a Loose Summertime Daily Schedule
    A loose summertime schedule provides structure without the rigidity of a strict timetable. It is important that schedules are most likely to satisfy the creative, physical, and social needs that school was providing before. Making a list of activities together that can be organized into these categories helps your child manage their time and interests independently while still allowing for flexibility. Here’s an example of what such a schedule might look like:
    • Wake up: No later than 9:00 am
    • Personal Care: Eat breakfast, brush teeth, shower, change clothes
    • Activity #1: Kid’s choice (video games, social media, YouTube, etc.)
    • Lunch
    • Movement Time: Walk around the neighborhood with friends, play basketball, etc.
    • Shower/Wind down
    • Dinner
    • Creative Activity #3: hobby, craft, coloring
    • Bedtime

    This “chunking” of activities gives children a sense of predictability and accomplishment. A predictable routine helps them understand what to expect, reducing resistance and anxiety while increasing cooperation and fluidity.

  2. Enforce a Balance with Online vs. Offline Time
    Monitoring and balancing screen time is crucial, especially for children who may be more prone to using screens as a coping mechanism. It takes effort, but it’s essential for your child’s well-being. Create a family schedule that includes both online and offline activities. Here are some strategies that can work:
    • Younger Kids: Pack books, games, and other non-screen activities for babysitters or relatives.
    • Older Kids: Establish that screen time is contingent on completing other activities (personal care, chores, hobbies). If these aren’t done, they are made aware that they will lose screen privileges the next day (negative reinforcement to achieve positive behaviors).

    Design a routine that works for your family together and be consistent with enforcing it.

  3. Encourage Participation in a Hobby, Interest, or Extracurricular Activity
    Helping your child develop a passion or interest makes them more interesting and fulfilled and can be particularly therapeutic for children with mental illness. Incorporate a daily chunk of time for this exploration. Allow your child to suggest interests, some examples of hobbies to help them choose are gardening, creative writing, chess, jewelry making, photography, reading, crocheting, and baking. It’s okay if they try something and don’t like it; keep exposing them to new opportunities until they find one feels right. There is much opportunity to foster lifelong passions during summer breaks!
  4. Plan Relationship-Building Times
    Include dedicated times in your schedule to connect with your child. This could be daily or weekly, depending on your routine. Examples of bonding activities include:
    • One-On-One Activities:
    • Walk the dog together
    • Breakfast outings
    • Puzzles
    • playing pretend
    • Concerts or sports events
    • Reading aloud to each other
    • Manicures or pedicures
    • Family Activities:
    •   – Board/card game nights
    •   – Special food nights (e.g., Taco night, build-your-own pizza night)
    •   – Trips to the beach or park
    •   – nature walks 

    These activities and skilled plans foster connection and help you stay engaged with your child’s life while maintaining your own responsibilities for the day. For children with various mental health needs, these times can be particularly valuable in providing emotional support and stability.

  5. Let Your Child Have Some Say in the Schedule
    Allowing your child to have input into the schedule increases their sense of control and cooperation. This can be particularly beneficial for children with mental illness, as it helps reduce anxiety and resistance. Determine where you can compromise, then sit down together to plan the day. This collaboration also provides an opportunity to teach them about time management and the importance of balancing relaxation with productive activities.


By implementing these strategies, you’ll create a summer break that is enjoyable and enriching for your child and fulfilling for you as a parent. These tips will help your child develop into an interesting, engaging, and motivated individual, ready to tackle the new school year with enthusiasm and confidence.

As highlighted in the text, Shaping Summertime Experiences: Opportunities to Promote Healthy Development and Well-Being for Children and Youth, “During early childhood, children are extremely sensitive to environmental influences. Thus, how they experience the school transition may influence their adjustment in ways that have long-term impacts on their developmental trajectories.” By planning a balanced and engaging summer, you’re not just making the break more enjoyable but also setting the stage for your child’s long-term development and well-being.

For more personalized guidance on managing summer break for children with mental health as a focus, feel free to reach out to our office. Therapeutic Partners LLC is here to support you and your family in creating a positive and fulfilling summer experience.


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