By Madeleine Shenher
Summer is upon us, and your little (or not-so-little) ones are at home for two months. This school year asked a lot of our children; students were expected to be masked up, pivot between in-person and online learning, spend most of their day within one room. At the same time, they were no longer participating in sports, seeing friends or family on the weekends, and so much more. Globally, we saw a rise in mental health concerns, with many individuals, children included, experiencing anxiety and depression as the impact of isolation began settling in.
After a year of many uncertainties, both you and your child may be looking forward to some reprieve this summer as restrictions begin to loosen and we move closer to that “normal” we once knew. However, managing that transition from being at school to being at home can be tricky, so we have put together some suggestions to help breeze into summer holidays!
Build a Routine
Students get so used to following the same routine each day: get up, get ready, get on the bus. They arrive at school, which is planned out for them and follows a set schedule. Then they get home, some free time, have dinner, and go to bed (give or take a few other activities). Once summer rolls around and routines loosen up, parents can see a change in behaviour as bedtimes become more flexible and their free time increases. Creating a predictable routine with your child (or children) can help set some expectations and create consistency in their day, which helps foster a sense of security. If, for whatever reason, a set routine needs to change, let your child know in advance to help them prepare for this change as well.
Manage Screen Time
Students have spent much more time on screens this year due to increased online and hybrid learning in schools. What once was done with paper and pencil is now uploaded and typed on Google Classroom. While having a break from screens can be a complex boundary to set, studies have shown that increased screen time can be associated with anxiety, sleep troubles, and inactivity. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends 1 hour of screen time for children ages 2 – 5 and no more than two for children over five years of age. Modeling healthy use of technology (for example, keeping dinner a “screen-free” zone for children and adults) can go a long way too.
It is no secret that COVID has impacted our physical activity levels; with recreation facilities closed and sports cancelled, children also have seen a reduction in opportunities to be active. The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth recommends around 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day for ages 5 – 17. Get creative! This can look different for every child – maybe bike rides, swimming, or soccer are your child’s jam. Encouraging your child to find an activity they enjoy can help create lifelong exercise habits.
Reconnect With Loved Ones
This one is pretty straightforward. The neighbours down the street you have lost touch with, the cousins on the other side of town that you haven’t seen as often, the grandparents you wanted to keep healthy. Humans are wired for connection, both young and old! Try to make some time this summer to reconnect and build new relationships with those around you.
Carrington, J. (2020). Kids These Days: A game plan for (re)connecting with those we teach, lead, & love. Impress, LP.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Building Structure. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/structure/building.html
Domingues‐Montanari, S. (2017). Clinical and psychological effects of excessive screen time on children. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 53(4), 333-338.
Imran, N., Zeshan, M., & Pervaiz, Z. (2020). Mental health considerations for children & adolescents in COVID-19 Pandemic. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, 36(COVID19-S4), S67.
Ponti, M., Belanger, S., Grimes, R., Heard, J., Johnson, M., Moreau, E., … & Williams, R. (2017). Screen time and young children: promote health and development in a digital world. Paediatrics & Child Health, 22(8), 469-477.