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Summer Mental Health Checklist for Teens and Adults

Introduction: School is out for the summer! The kids are back at home with no plans and no schedule – how can you make sure they don’t spend all day in their rooms trapped in the tech vortex? Reference this checklist for ideas on how to support your adolescent’s mental health on summer break.

Mental Health Checklist: Summer Break Edition

School Year Reflection

Research shows that reflection allows an individual to recognize assumptions, thoughts, feelings, and behavior that shape perception and action. Activate the learning by thinking process in your adolescent by encouraging them to reflect on the past school year. Engage in the conversation with them through active listening and open-ended questions.

Questions to ask:

  • What are three ways you grew as a person this school year?
  • What was your favorite part of ____ grade?
  • What did you learn about yourself this year?
  • What was a time where you struggled this year, but persevered?
  • What do you want to leave behind in _____ grade?
  • What life lessons will you bring with you next year?

Cover the Basics: Sleep, Eat, Move

Proper sleep, nutrition, and movement is foundational to self-care for adolescents and adults. Often, teens don’t get enough sleep during the school year. Summer can be the time to catch up on those Z’s. Studies show adolescents need 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night for optimal cognitive development. So – it’s okay to let the teen in your household sleep in this summer.

While it may be easy to rely on a teen prioritizing sleep over the summer – the same may or may not apply for nutrition and movement. Maintaining a regular eating schedule with nutritional variety is important to sustain daily energy. Skipping meals or limiting intake can lead to disordered eating patterns.

According to the American Heart Association suggest school age kids and teens between the ages of 6 and 17 aim for 1 hour of moderate to vigorous activity per day.  The AHA says, “Kids who are active have better bone health, physical fitness, brain function, attention, and academic performance. They stay at a healthier weight and have fewer symptoms of depression.”

Tech-Free Time

Adolescents spend so much time tied to digital devices, at school and at home. Summer break provides an opportunity to disconnect more frequently from the internet. A 2023 Common Sense Media study reported US teens spent a median average of 4.5 hours on their smartphones. Half of the study participants received 237 or more phone notifications per day. Social media use is prevalent; more than 50% of study participants reported scrolling TikTok for a median of nearly 2 hours daily.

Tech-free time is essential for adolescents in an increasingly digital-forward world. Make it a group bonding opportunity – replace tech with a phone-free family walk, hike, bike-ride, game-night, movie night, etc. Tech-free stints can happen at daily (tech free hours) or weekly (group bonding) intervals.

Engage in Hobbies

Summertime is a fantastic opportunity for adolescents to engage in hobbies outside of a school setting. Adolescent participation in hobbies can increase well-being through the development of self-esteem, confidence, grit, improved sociability, and collaboration skills. Hobbies are important because they are self-directed activities that rely on internal motivation to master skills.

What if your teen doesn’t have a hobby? Encourage your adolescent to think about things they would like to try or experience. Perhaps do some research together to create a list of potential activities to try. Allow the teen to choose what sounds fun to them, and support their willingness to try something new.

Time Outdoors 

Check out our latest blog on the benefits of spending time outside.

Want to learn more ways to promote and protect the mental and socioemotional health of adolescents in your life? Check out our accredited youth life coach trainings for more information.

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