Gearing Up Your Kids for a Mentally Healthy Summer

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

After another disrupted school year, kids are adapting to the next new normal: summer vacation. Since screen times have been sky-high, social activities have been disrupted, and outdoor gatherings have been limited, maintaining child and teen mental health may require a little extra effort.

So how can we help our kids while also taking care of ourselves? What are age-appropriate tips and tricks for checking in on their mental health? And how can we tell if anyone in our families, including ourselves, may need more help?

Audience Questions

Lisa W. Coyne, PhD, shares ways to check in on our loved ones without being intrusive, explains the importance of putting on our own oxygen masks first, and answers audience questions about how we can all safely and happily enjoy our summer.

  • Why is summer break good for our kids’ mental health?
  • Our kids are so used to having structured days with school and other practices. Should we try to keep a structured day for our kids over the summer? How much structure is too much structure?
  • How can we defuse their pushback on having a more structured day?
  • How can we better manage our kids’ downtime so that their schedules and minds don’t suffer, but also in a way that can fit our own needs?
  • How do we talk to kids about being safe over the summer with their friends? Examples: teens and drinking, talking to strangers online while gaming, etc.
  • What are some of the ways to say no to substance use that you’ve suggested to your kids? What do you suggest saying specifically to a teen who might want to try substances with their friends?
  • Kids feel they’re “adults” when they’re 18, but many parents and providers know that the brain isn’t fully developed until several years later. How can we feel better about our kids making mistakes in this “adult” period?
  • I have an agreement with my kids that if they make a bad choice, they call me, we talk about it, but they do not get in trouble. What are your thoughts on this?
  • What interventions do you recommend for limiting video games use among kids?
  • A lot of kids feel a sense of belonging—and sometimes, purpose—when going through the school year. How can we instill those same feelings in kids so they can feel more emotionally grounded in their summertime freedom?
  • My 13-year-old just finished a treatment program, and we are trying to focus on safety when bringing them back into the community and the family. After stabilizing, how can we utilize summer timing to help them build a more meaningful life together?
  • What are your thoughts regarding parents calling and texting to check in too often to the point where the child, now 23, does not want to answer or seek out their parents? More specifically, do you have any ideas about establishing boundaries with young adults which were not previously present in childhood?

About Dr. Coyne

Lisa W. Coyne, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, part-time, at Harvard Medical School, and is a senior clinical consultant at the Child and Adolescent OCD Institute (OCDI Jr.) at McLean Hospital.

Dr. Coyne has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters on anxiety, OCD, and parenting. She is the author of “The Joy of Parenting: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Effective Parenting in the Early Years,” a book for parents of young children.

Recent books by Dr. Coyne:

Learn more about Dr. Coyne.

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