Most anxious kids don’t like summer. There’s too much time (unstructured time, that is) and too many questions.
What are we going to do today?
How much longer until we go to the park?
These are the questions anxious kids don’t have to answer during the school year. School provides structure day in and day out and anxious kids love structure. Structure works so well for anxious kids because they don’t have to think. They know what comes next. They know what to expect. They know what the rules are and what happens if they break them.
Summer is the complete opposite. Schedules are in flex and time takes on a new meaning. Instead of time being filled by teachers, soccer coaches and piano teachers, kids now have to fill it themselves. They have to choose camps, activities, play dates and anything else they think might make their summer a little more bearable.
A great way to handle this anxiety is a parenting tool called Structuring the Unstructured. By that I mean, getting out a calendar and filling it in, day by day, week by week of what summer activities you already have planned. First, put in family vacations, already scheduled camps and events, then fill in the holes. Add play dates, trips to the zoo and even camping in the back yard. For the days you don’t have anything scheduled, have your child choose activities that he/she thinks might be fun.
Post the calendar in a visible place and use it as a tool to help anxious kids deal with all of the uncertainty of summer. While summer may not excite your anxious child, this tool might just make it bearable.