Finally, summer is here! Your teen is out of school, stress levels are down, and the weather is warming up. Many parents feel that summer is the prime time for their teen to relax, recuperate, and possibly participate in summer camps or volunteering.
For some parents, the idea of starting their teen in therapy over the summer may seem odd – why begin therapy during a time of low stress?
Here’s why summertime presents an ideal opportunity to start therapy.
During the school year, many teens feel stress associated with a combination of academic, extracurricular, and social demands. Summer, on the other hand, presents a perfect opportunity for teens to develop coping skills during a period of reduced demands.
Trying to squeeze therapy into a packed school week can be tough. For some teens, trying to learn and practice new therapy skills when they’re already overloaded with school can be particularly challenging.
On the other hand, learning and practicing tools for managing stress and coping with strong emotions during a period of relative calm may help teens internalize these skills and be better equipped to use them during demanding times of the year.
Let’s think about a hypothetical teen, Sarah, whose experiences are likely shared by many teens. During the school year, Sarah becomes overwhelmed and stressed when faced with big exams or assignments. She has trouble sleeping, and spends a lot of time worrying about failing and not getting into college. Sometimes, she avoids getting started on her work when feeling especially overwhelmed.
Therapy during the summer could help Sarah learn coping skills for dealing with anxiety, such as tools to calm her body, and ways to restructure worry thoughts into more helpful or realistic thoughts. Sarah could also learn the best practices for how to set small, achievable, and time limited goals as a way to decrease procrastination. A therapist could also help Sarah to learn and practice healthy sleep behaviors.
All of these skills are things that Sarah could learn and practice over the summer in order to go into the next school year feeling confident and equipped to take on new challenges.
If your teen is like most, the last school year brought a return to in-school learning but still had its challenges. Teachers were trying to identify and make up for gaps in learning caused by remote instruction. Many noticed that some students were anxious about being in person with their peers and in classrooms after the long period at home.
Beginning therapy in the summer provides teens a chance to process and reflect on what went well for them over the school year and what didn’t. This form of structured reflection can help teens put the last school year behind them and “reset”, building resilience and confidence before starting school again in the fall.
For Sarah, this could include reflecting on things that went well, such as math class, creating new friendships, and joining the soccer team. And, to understand where she can grow and improve - history grades, responding to peer pressure, and managing her social anxiety.
Have you ever had the experience of expecting a break or vacation to be relaxing, but then becoming listless or just feeling out of sorts?
For many of us, the stark contrast between vacation and work, or summertime and the school year can be challenging. For some teens who are prone to anxiety or depression, the lack of structure during the summer can even exacerbate moodiness and malaise.
For Sarah, not only does therapy itself provide consistency to a her summer schedule, but it can also help to set her up for success throughout the week. Working with a therapist can help your teen set realistic, achievable goals for their summer so that they’re able to achieve a balance between downtime and activities.
If you or someone you know is looking to learn more about working with a therapist, we are happy to discuss and see if Joon is a good fit. You can schedule a free consultation here.