We hope everyone is enjoying their summer! Here is what one of our awesome Youth Advisory Board (YAB) members has to say about summer, stress, and taking the time to communicate and connect with the young people in your life.
Students start counting down the days till summer immediately after getting home from their first day of school. Every day that passes is one step closer to teens’ favorite time of the year. The spring months of warm (well, warmer) days and swirling pollen peak teens’ excitement as they begin to plan for days lakeside tanning or snuggled up under blankets with their friends at a drive-in movie. Once summer hits, a feeling of total freedom saturates the air as teens run out of their schools and into the world.
For some teens, their summers maybe day after day in a boat at their favorite lake. Others may be working at jobs. Regardless, mixed in with the freedoms of summer is a lot more time to yourself. This means more time to contemplate common stressors many teens carry, such as insecurity or family conflicts. A common misconception many teens and adults have alike is that mental illness will magically disappear once summer starts. Although there may not be daily tests or terrifying teachers to worry about, summer comes with its own bundle of stressors. For starters, academics continue into summer for most teens, specifically those who are preparing for the ACT/ SAT or have summer homework to complete for the following school year. Also, many teens are attending their senior friends’ graduation parties, saying goodbye to their college-bound classmates, and beginning to think about what they want to do once they graduate. These stressful thoughts can also come from social media. In my experience, one of the lowest points in my summer is always when I begin to compare my day spent in my room on my laptop to my friend’s day truffle hunting in Italy that she documented on her Insta-story.
To deal with all the pressure and stress summer gives teens the time to think about, some may turn to unhealthy forms of coping. The spike in substance abuse for teens in the summer is no coincidence, as many turns to drugs and alcohol to mask their emotions. Others may find themselves in abusive relationships with friends or significant others as a way of dealing with their feelings.
With all of these issues that teens may be facing in the summer, it is important for parents to encourage healthy habits throughout the summer months. For example, it may sometimes be hard to find time to spend with the family during the school year, so summer is the perfect time to put more effort into meaningful communication with teens. Talk to teens about how they’re feeling. Just because school isn’t in session for most kids, doesn’t mean that everything is perfect in their lives. Encouraging, but not forcing, teens to work on themselves or their skills over summer can also be helpful. This could be anything from getting a summer job to taking an art class to bake more at home. Another plus to encouraging teens to find activities to keep them busy over the summer is the opportunity for parents to get involved and spend even more time with their teens. Although, as a high school students myself, I feel like I have to mention that it is important to realize that all people have their own limits which should be acknowledged.
Summer may be seen as the season of infinite possibilities and new experiences for teens, but it is important to make sure that you’re spending it the way that you want to. Just because you see the kid who sat next to you in Algebra class posting every day about being out on the lake or hiking up a mountain doesn’t mean that your days of reading a book on your porch or sketching out your favorite superhero while watching movies in your basement are a waste of time. Everyone has their own interests, goals, and dreams of how they want their life to play out. It is important to find your own visions of your ideal life and future, and then work towards that vision.
To me, as well as most teens, the absolute best part of summer is the time given to self reflect and decide what you want to do with the time that you have for the next few months. Some may decide to go on daily runs to prepare for their next season of sports, and others may decide to start journaling in order to cope with their mental illness. Although trying to improve yourself and your life can at times be stressful or even scary, it is important to remember to use the time you have to find what makes you happiest and healthiest and strive towards that.
Interested in joining YAB for the 2019-2020 school year?
The myHealth Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is made up of a diverse group of young people ages 15-19 who represent myHealth in their schools and communities and are interested in teen health and leadership opportunities. YAB members give vital input and feedback on the programs and clinic at myHealth, are trained to provide education to classmates, friends, and peers, represent myHealth at community events, help raise awareness and funds for myHealth and volunteer within the local community.
Applications are accepted year-round, but interviews for admission into YAB occurs only once per year, in the summer. If you or a young person you know would like to apply or just have some questions, contact Laura Herman at [email protected]