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Avoiding Summer Bummers

Summer is a time of excitement, relaxation, and sunshine for most people. There is a break from school and the workload tends to lighten. With the increased daylight, moods generally improve and many feel more energetic.

However, the changes that come with summer can be difficult for some. There's an expectation that people “should” feel better in summer, which can be perplexing if they don't. It's essential to remember that summer brings a lot of natural changes, like the school year ending, people traveling, kids attending camps, job hours changing, and less structured time with fewer obligations. All these can lead to mood shifts and possibly unpredictable behavior.

The last thing anyone wants is to have a bummer of a summer, so here are some things you can do to avoid it.

Accept that change can be hard: Many are sad to leave college campuses or change teachers/classrooms. Remember that this can be considered a loss. There are many emotions about getting older for both kids and their parents. Leaving classrooms and friends can be tough, leading to anticipatory anxiety around what will happen in the fall, even at the beginning of summer.

What can you do? Validate emotions. Help others to understand that having many emotions after a change is very normal. Recognize that emotions can be mixed and many emotions are displayed as behaviors.

Know that travel can be stressful: If your child is attending a new camp or traveling this summer, they may be displaying out-of-the-ordinary behaviors or strong emotions (even when it’s somewhere that they want to go!)

What can you do? Practice patience. Help your child (teen/young adult/partner) sit with their negative emotions and try not to alleviate negative feelings for them. Work with them to strategize things that were helpful/useful in the past to get through travel. Many people get dysregulated when traveling. Dysregulation can look like irritability, sudden mood changes, stomach or headaches, or a low frustration tolerance.

Too much downtime can lead to “stinkin’ thinkin’”: There's a balance between relaxing and unwinding and having too much unstructured time. Teens, especially, have difficulty distinguishing the difference. Many teens are so overwhelmed and recovering from the school year, so the idea of doing anything over the summer seems insurmountable. However, when any of us do nothing for too long of a period of time, this can lead to negative thoughts and a decrease in energy and motivation.

What can you do? Work with your teen to set limits. Brainstorm things they would like to accomplish over the summer and try to refrain from judging. Work with them to create a “schedule” and help them to see that even with achieving their goals, they will have PLENTY of time to decompress and relax.

It’s possible to have too much time together: Remember the Pandemic? (Of course, you do!) All joking aside, in summer, families tend to spend more time together compared to the school year. While this can have positive effects, it can also result in increased tension and disagreements among family members.

What can you do? Be mindful of expectations. Are you anticipating that the family vacation will be the best, most perfect vacation ever and that everyone is going to have an amazing time and you will have memories for a lifetime? Remember that personalities and opinions can change year after year and something that was fun in the past might be different now. Work to avoid comparing past trips and summers. Focus on being present and having everyone practice gratitude at the opportunity of being able to travel.

Ultimately, there are a lot of things you can do to ensure that you have a positive, enjoyable summer. Be mindful of putting too much pressure on yourself and others to make summer incredible. This can often backfire. Simply try to breathe, turn up some good music, and be in the moment. So put on some sunscreen, go outside and remember, “some of the best memories are made in flip-flops.” ~ Kellie Elmore


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