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Why Kids Need Therapy During Summer

By Kathleen M Sisti, MSW, LMSW

I am a child therapist. Like other therapists, I know summer is a slower period for therapy sessions; families are traveling on vacations and children are busy experiencing new adventures at camps. However, therapy can be particularly beneficial for children in summertime, and I recommend that families continue to make it a priority.

Therapy is often the only constant during the summer for children. Children struggle with transitions and summer is full of them. Leaving behind the familiarity of classmates and teachers, having to adjust to one or more summer camps, new swim teams or other activities, and days with less structure may create anxiety. If a child who was receiving regular therapy is without that extra emotional support, are they missing guidance to help them navigate the transitions? “One technique used in therapeutic sessions with an educated counselor’s guidance is role-playing.” How might they learn to deal with feelings of grief as the season comes to an end and process feelings of anxiety as a new season brings more changes and adjustments?

Therapy covers all this and more. It offers not only continuity of care, but a supportive learning environment for a child. It allows them to build their social emotional skills — which research has indicated is key to their development. Therapists are prepared to navigate conversations about camp and new social situations and prepared to help them attend to and manage complex feelings as they leave and enter different situations.

Does this mean cancelling your vacation? No, absolutely not! We (including therapists) all need a break now and then. It does mean being mindful of your child’s schedule. Think of therapy, something done to care for mental health, as you would a medical appointment to care for physical health; something important for well-being you work hard not to miss. While working with your child, a therapist also has many valuable tools to offer you in helping your child navigate feelings and transitions. The ongoing partnership between parent and therapist benefits your child and your entire family.

I ask my clients for their schedules ahead of time so we can anticipate possible disruptions to therapy and plan ahead to ensure we are all on the same page. Life does happen, and things do come up, but having their schedule allows me to see what challenges a child I’m working with may be facing in the future. When does camp begin? When is the first day of school? This information can help me plan sessions around these events.

We adults forget how scary it can be to meet new people. A new camp can create anxiety in a child. This fear may manifest in different behaviors; melt downs, stomach aches, or avoiding camp all together. It’s important to communicate the behaviors you see both at home and camp to your child’s therapist so they can be a resource for you.

Summer is a fun and unique time when children find themselves in settings different than the rest of the year, interacting with new people and having new experiences. It is an opportunity to practice skills acquired and reinforced through therapy. Maintaining the consistency of the therapeutic relationship throughout summer not only helps your child navigate the changes of summer, but also helps prepare them for a new school year.

Photo of Kathleen Sisti Kathleen M Sisti, MSW, LMSW is a Clinical Therapist at JCS.

Jewish Community Services (JCS) provides programs and services for people of all ages and backgrounds, helping them achieve their goals, enhance their wellbeing, and maximize their independence.  To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or 410-466-9200.

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