By Dr. Tracy Siebers, Samaritan Counseling Center Clinical Director
School’s out for summer, and now our young sons and daughters may need help to recalibrate their schedules to nurture their mental and emotional wellness. A summer spent on screens or without meaningful activities has the potential to stall their development and waste opportunities for insightful experiences and supportive relationships. Dr. Tracy Siebers, Samaritan Counseling Center Clinical Director, suggests that caring adults help guide the young people in their lives to invest in these summertime activities and routines:
Ensure Healthy Sleep
The phrase “sleep to grow” is indeed accurate. It’s a time when our body rests, rejuvenates, and regulates hormone levels that affect many important systems in our bodies. Young people secrete their growth hormones especially during deep sleep. Serious health problems like anxiety, depression, and obesity can be linked to poor sleep. But this does not mean teens should sleep until noon! Expect a consistent waking time after nine to 11 hours of sleep a night. Try to make sure phones are completely turned off at bedtime and put outside their bedrooms.
Go for a short nature walk or hike with your young person. Bring tempting snacks and pack a water bottle. Talk as you walk, but plan for short stints where you are silent. This will allow your companion(s) to experience the leaves, birds, and sunshine. Without pressing the issue, you are introducing the calming effects of nature and mindfulness, two valuable skills for dealing with a lifetime of complex experiences and stressors.
Foster Intergenerational Relationships
It can be intimidating or awkward for teens and pre-teens to engage with their elders, especially if grandparents or friends are beginning to experience cognitive decline. However, it’s also an enriching opportunity for them to learn empathy, absorb wisdom, and bring genuine joy to others. Accompany young people on visits and integrate them into your conversations. Start with phrases like, “Look what I found. . . .” Or “I’ve brought something you might like …” and then share an old recipe card, photo, or toy. Listen to the fascinating stories! Older children who play an instrument can perform a short concert—that’s always a hit.
Cook Up a New Tradition
Try for regular trips to the farm market with your family. Walk or bike there if you can. Empower young people to choose their own fruits and vegetables. That night, cut and chop together and create a salad or meal.
Get to Work
Make a conscious choice to encourage a strong age-appropriate work ethic over the summer, whether it’s contributing to household chores, volunteering to re-stack books at the library, helping mow grandma’s lawn, or getting paid at a part-time job. Facilitate project-based-learning like gardening. Choosing seeds, weeding, and watering teach valuable lessons about food, flowers, and project management, all with tangible results. Every day should have purpose and reinforce feelings of resourcefulness and self-esteem, even if it’s just an hour or two a day. Also, these interactions help build relationships and references that will support a young person as he or she grows into writing a résumé or job and college applications.
The stories of a healthy childhood do not require lavish trips to Disney. They are written in the small moments you spend with your young children and friends, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. Reading books, making art, listening and talking, baking, going for walks, picking flowers, playing catch, or reminiscing about the good old days will make for a happy and healthy summer and a lifetime of memories.
In addition to being the clinical director for Samaritan Counseling Center, Dr. Tracy Siebers is a bilingual English and Spanish therapist. She serves children, adolescents, adults, couples and families facing concerns with depression, anxiety, anger management, behavioral problems, cultural adjustment, mindfulness, trauma and borderline personality disorder. She serves clients at Samaritan’s Menasha and Kaukauna locations.