Focusing on Your High Schooler’s Mental Wellness This Summer

After a tough end to the school year, this local teacher suggests parents focus more on their children's mental health than worrying about summer slide. Here, she offers insight.

Are you worried your high schooler didn’t learn enough this year? Perhaps the shift to remote learning was a bit tougher than you and your family had expected. Or, if it was an effortless transition, you still might wonder if your child is ready for the upcoming school year.

While you might want to find a number of ways to help your teenager prepare for the 2020-21 school year — and avoid the summer slide — there is one important way to ensure your child is ready for whatever the next year brings: focusing on his or her mental health.

“I feel like the big thing for this summer for kids is mental health,” says Heather Chase, an 11th and 12th grade teacher at Adlai Stevenson High School in Sterling Heights.”I really believe that they have suffered. This was traumatic for everyone, but these kids, this is going to be their legacy, so I think that we really need to be finding ways for them to be able to work on their mental health, to be able to do things actively.”

While Chase understands that students will experience summer slide and it is still important to work on some skills (whether it’s SAT prep or using Khan Academy), it’s integral to build in time to decompress and prepare your students for the new normal that awaits them in the fall.

Here’s how.

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Refocus and reconnect 

Taking part in outdoor recreation boasts big benefits to mental health, plus it helps build your immunities. In fact, spending time outside and in nature — and getting that vitamin D from the sun — helps your bones, blood cells and immune system, according to WebMD. But it also lessens a person’s anxiety, stress and anger because sunlight actually boosts serotonin levels, which helps with energy and mood.

It doesn’t cost a thing to spend time in the sun, and it’s something fun to do as a family. Take a bike ride, visit your local metropark or launch your boat or kayak on Lake St. Clair — there are so many options in your backyard.

Whatever you choose to do, Chase says to do it without a screen in hand.

“I feel like this generation of kids has grown up in front of video games and in front of a screen for so long, that I feel like peeling them away from that screen and just doing things where as a family or even with their peers, something that does not involve a screen I think is just huge for their mental health,” Chase notes.

Try a mindfulness exercise, too, which help to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia and more, according to the Mayo Clinic. Mindfulness exercises can actually improve attention, as well, which will greatly benefit your high schooler when school is back in session in the fall.

“Just going out and going in public becomes stressful,” Chase says. “I think that we all need to find a way to ease ourselves back into life,” and helping your children mentally will prepare them for whatever the rest of 2020 brings.

Content brought to you by the Macomb Intermediate School District. For more information, visit misd.net.

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