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Many anxious kids are already getting nervous. It isn’t because of standardized testing or that they’re stuck in school while the weather is beautiful outside. It’s because summer is coming and with summer comes anxiety.

How could kids POSSIBLY be anxious in summer? There isn’t homework or tests or long hours sitting in a desk. What there is however, is unstructured time.  And, unstructured time is no friend of anxiety. As a matter of fact, unstructured time is the worst possible thing for anxiety.

Why? Because anxious kids have mental energy that is not being used up. Instead of being mentally engaged by the structure and requirements of school, anxious kids have too much time to think. Ponder. Worry.

So, the best thing a parent can possibly do during this transition is to structure the unstructured. Instead of seeing the summer as two months of open-ended time, help your child break the summer down into weeks. It goes something like this:

Buy a white board calendar and post it in the kitchen where the whole family can see. Sit down with your child and begin marking off things you already have planned such as vacations, summer camps, etc. After you have filled up the calendar with already scheduled events, start filling in the holes. Talk about activities such as going to the zoo, having a play date or going to the park. Involve your child in the process but be willing to make suggestions of your own. Bring out the calendar to add something new and by the start of summer your child will have a sense of what will happen, thus lessening his or her anxiety. 

The tool above is called “Structuring the Unstructured” which can be found in Why Smart Kids Worry.

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