Summer can be a nerve-wracking time for families. Just when you’re used to the kids being in school all day, they’re back with you 24/7 for the whole summer. Do you sign them up for camps? Send them to the grandparents? Put them in summer school? Feeling a little summer anxiety is a real thing.

My son just graduated from preschool, so it’s not like I’ve had a ton of experience in sending him to school year-round. BUT, it is amazing how quickly I got used to him being at school for a few hours, three days a week. That first week of summer vacation, I was really missing those quiet afternoons when his little brother napped, and I could actually get a few things done around the house. Plus, he seemed more restless now that we were back to basically zero routines and schedules.

Five ways to deal with summer anxiety

I ended up attacking our summer anxiety by creating a loose routine (sort of like last year’s weekly calendar). I made sure that each week we did at least one educational activity, planned a couple of play dates with friends and tried to squeeze in an out-of-the-ordinary adventure. We fill in all the other times with unstructured play and spontaneous activities. It has helped so much in giving us all something to look forward to, and by being able to plan our weeks around upcoming events. (However, I have NOT been able to figure out a way to get my quiet afternoons back. Let me know if you have any tips on that. 😉 )

Whether you take it easy or pack each week full of activities, it’s still tough to find a good balance and help the whole family relax during this break from school. Child and family therapist Michele Kambolis, author of Generation Stressed: Play-Based Tools To Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, recommends these five tips for helping your child unwind and recharge during the summer.

5 Ways To Beat Summer Anxiety

Generation Stressed Learn about mindfulness. Help your kids relax and be present by learning to quiet their minds. Teach them to focus on internal feelings and thoughts, like love and kindness for others, to create a sense of well-being.

Get your hands dirty: play.  A child’s job is to play. That gets overshadowed in our overscheduled culture. Focus on helping them find joy in play, and it will cancel out anxiety. Get on the floor and play with them too!

Move to relax. Get moving to beat stress! Feel-good neurochemicals surge through our bodies, boosting our immune systems and lowering stress levels.

Find a furry friend.  Did you know owning a pet has been found to increase well-being? Just petting a dog can lower blood pressure, increase dopamine and other hormones associated with happiness, and promotes relaxation and pain relief.

Discover down time. Let kids be in charge sometimes. Their imagination can run wild as they learn to structure and regulate themselves — who knows what awesome things they’ll create.

Are you experiencing summer anxiety in your home? What do you do to combat it?