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AAww, summer time is finally here, and for most children this is the time of year they have been looking forward to. It's a time to relax, play and have fun. No worries about homework, big projects or deadlines .For parents it is also a time to relax a bit, go with the flow with no battles about homework, getting to bed and waking up rituals, and to take a break from feeling like a drill sergeant.

Then into your second month of summer vacation, kids are complaining they are bored, playing too many video games, and depending on their parents to provide fun for them for the weeks to come. Parents begin to resume the drill sergeant role and at times become frustrated with their children for not using their time in a more productive manner. Well here we are again! Everyone is pressured to find activities for their children, and children are looking for external sources to make them happy. What about kids finding their own healthy activities that help them feel good and productive?

Did you know that during the summer months some children and adults experience an increase in Depression, Anxiety and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? How can this be? Summer is carefree, and fun. Yes it is, but for some not having the structure and too much free time can increase anxiety or depression. For some, summer can be a very social time of the year. But what if you have social anxiety or feel uncomfortable interacting with others? This could add up to feeling lonely, sad, and can lower self esteem. For adults, they can experience the same mental health issues as children especially with anxiety and depression. Due to the more social activities that may be available in the summer some adults can identify feeling more lonely and anxious about being in social situations and will often decline such invitations which can lead them to feel more depressed and isolated. The National Alliance on Mental Illness website states that some people can experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the summer. This is defined as having depressive episodes that occur during certain times of the year, usually in the winter months. However, in the summer such symptoms could include weight loss, decrease in appetite, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.

So what do we do? Healthy living is always about finding the right balance. First with your children have a discussion with them about developing a more healthy balance. Video games, TV, and texting are all fine and good, but let's look at some additional activities you can do to feel less bored and more productive. We all feel better when we contribute and feel we are apart of something. This is a unique time for people to explore their strengths and interests, and try some of them without having the pressure of school. Develop some sort of structure for the day; it doesn't have to be too rigid but goals for the day or week. These could include reading a book for enjoyment (not from your summer reading list), going to the gym, taking a class, going to an event, learning more about a topic that interests you, part time job, helping out around the house, or taking your dog for a walk, and volunteering. Parents this will mean you will have to be on board with some of these due to transportation. Above all, your child needs your support in finding and following through with some of these activities.

If you experience social anxiety, develop steps to help reduce the level of your anxiety. Some steps could include, going to the mall, calling a friend, going for a walk, talk to your neighbors, go to church, go into a store and purchase something or ask where an item is, or go to an event. Feeling depressed? Use this time to develop more effective coping skills, (things that you can do to feel less depressed). This could be exercising, taking a walk, talking to family, friends, people who help you to feel positive, explore hobbies or interests, and take steps toward doing them. Remember, this time does not have to be boring time, look at it as a time to REGROUP, RECHARGE and find out more about yourself and making YOU a better YOU!

Sheri Arnold, LCSW is a Senior Clinical Associate with Family Guidance Centers. She provides individual, child/adolescent, family, and marital therapy. She brings her 20 years of therapy experience to the Chesterfield and Powhatan communities.

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