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Helping Kids with Anxiety & OCD Survive the Summer
The stress of school is finally over! No more homework battles, no more school refusal! Just pure relaxation. But summer isn’t always as easy as it seems for kids with anxiety and OCD.
When a child is not busy with after school activities, projects and huge assignments, their mind is available for other things. And more often than not those “other things” aren’t pretty. New anxiety themes pop up. New compulsions surface. Old What Ifs take hold.
When there are no distractions anxiety and OCD can take center stage. So how can you save their summer and your sanity?
Here are a few tips: [scroll to the bottom of the page to listen to the podcast episode]
Kids with Anxiety & OCD Need Structure
Unstructured down time can be overwhelming for kids with anxiety and OCD. So even if you have nothing planned, make some structure out of your day.
Have a calendar where everyone can see it.
If your child is going to camp and there is a schedule – hang it up or post it on the calendar. The more information an anxious child has, the better.
Structure your day with anchors.
Put some structure to your blob of a day. Have one morning activity and/or one afternoon activity. The activities can be divided by meals. Give your child a timeframe for when each activity will start or anchor it around a meal (e.g. after lunch we’ll do our activity).
Put a timeframe on your activity if there isn’t one built in. Anxious kids do well when they know what to expect.
Make a list of activities with your kids and have them pick the activities each week. Get creative. Activities don’t have to cost a lot of money.
Don’t Let Your Kids Turn into Vampires!
It is easy to get relaxed in the summer. Required bedtimes and restrictions on electronics can sometimes get thrown out the window. But, you don’t want your kids to turn into vampires – sleeping during the day and staying up late into the night.
Have a summer bedtime.
It doesn’t have to be as early as during the school year, but structure is still good for anxious kids. When kids get less sleep, they are less able to fight off anxiety or OCD.
Now is the Time to Fight Anxiety and OCD
Often parents feel like summer is a time to take a break on everything…including a child’s anxiety or OCD. They will often say their child is in need of a break or there is nothing to work on in the summer.
Neither are accurate.
The summer is a great time to work on anxiety and OCD. In fact, it is an important thing to do. You want to take advantage of the free time you have in the summer. With homework and after school activities out of the way, you should have more time to tackle your child’s issues.
Don’t know where to start? Take one of my online classes and learn how to build your child’s skills to fight anxiety, social anxiety or OCD.
If your child does not work on their issues over the summer, their struggles will be even worse when they are scheduled to go back to school.
Even if you think school is the main struggle. You can still work on issues over the summer. One of the most effective therapy approaches is ERP, Exposure Response Prevention. You can learn more about that by clicking here.
You want to get to your child’s core fear. You can learn more about that here. You can work on the core fear even when your child is not in school.
Worried about social criticism? Take my social anxiety class or do social anxiety challenges over the summer.
Do you fear throwing up? Do exposures (ERP) around throwing up.
Do you have separation anxiety? Do exposures around separation anxiety.
Do you have OCD? Do ERP around your obsessive thoughts.
Remember the calendar we talked about earlier? Schedule your ERP exercises each day. Make a challenge prize box and do at least one exposure per day. This can be incorporated into your daily summer routine. If the prizes are good enough, your kids will remind you to do the exposure challenges.
Get Your Kids Out
Lastly, you want to make sure your kids get out at least once a day. Even if it is to the park, to the pool or to the store – you don’t want kids to become home bound.
Kids with anxiety and OCD are much more at risk than other kids to develop agoraphobia, the fear of leaving their home. This can happen very suddenly, especially over the summer.
You can ensure this isn’t happening by requiring your child leave the house with you at least once a day. You can add this activity to your daily calendar.
Summer doesn’t have to be painful. Keep their schedule structured, but relaxed. Use the time as an opportunity for your child to crush their anxiety or OCD. Make sure to incorporate exposure challenges into your daily schedule.
Want to listen to more ideas? Listen to my podcast episode on this topic. Click below to listen or hit subscribe and listen to it later:
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